Wheat harvest has begun across the states as farmers prepare for the wet season. Wheat is majorly a dry season crop cultivated during the November and December window.
Our correspondents across the major producing states spoke with some farmers on this year’s harvest and the issues that dominate their minds as they take up other crops for the rain-fed.
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In Katsina State, our correspondent reports that wheat farmers are more excited this year despite the challenges of insecurity that confront that part of the country.
They have produced more wheat compared to last year, courtesy of government’s recent interventions on wheat production.
One of the farmers in Mairuwa, Faskari LGA, Salisu Abdullahi, said the initial priority of irrigation farmers was to produce tomatoes but where it was not feasible they opted to farm wheat.
He said: “The federal government has really motivated us with its intervention in which we received improved wheat seeds, fertiliser, water pump machines and other inputs.
“This will be a litmus test as the forthcoming seasons will record massive production of wheat if government maintains this policy.”
Abdullahi added that those that planted early harvested in March and sold at a higher price.
“It initially sold at N36,000 per 100kg bag but as the harvest continues and the quality of the produce dropped with the acute shortage of water, the price dropped to about N32,000,” Abdullahi also said.
Another farmer in Bakori LGA, Sani Ma’aruf, said for more than two decades, irrigation farmers in the area had been producing wheat in large quantities, adding that it got better this season.
“Like Danja which is known for tomato production, Bakori is known for wheat farming and this year, government gave us a boost with inputs. The only challenge we are facing is inadequate water for irrigation. The only irrigation dam we have dried up two weeks ago and the Jare Earth Dam project by the federal government is too slow to raise hope for our farmers,” Ma’aruf said.
He added that many acres of wheat and other crops were badly affected by the drying up of the Bakori irrigation dam.
He further said that hastening the completion of the Jare earth dam will have a huge impact on the economic activities of the state, especially in the production of wheat, tomato and Irish potato among other crops.
Meanwhile, some farmers have said that despite the revenue generated in wheat production, they still preferred tomato farming.
Garba Abdullahi from Danja LGA said tomatoes gave more profit as farmers will spend weeks harvesting them.
“Like rice, soybeans or maize, wheat can only be harvested once and its yield is not as much as other cereals. That is why we prefer to invest in tomatoes and other perishable crops to maximize profit.
The only reason why we cultivated wheat massively this year is because of shortage of irrigation water to produce tomato, onion or cabbage,” Abdullahi also said.
Our correspondent, who went to Dandume, Kafur, Bakori and Funtua grains markets, saw wheat in large quantities.
But in Jigawa, our reporter said expectations are high amidst the ongoing harvest of the grain if the current government’s support through the various forms of interventions is sustained.
But despite the optimism of a possible bumper harvest, our correspondent spoke to a number of wheat producers, especially, the beneficiaries of the recently-launched Nigerian Brown Revolution by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Flour Mills of Nigeria, (FMAN).
He reports that, even as they laud the CBN initiative, they are of the view that unless the authorities effected some fundamental changes, the recent gains recorded could be reversed.
Under the initiative, farmers are provided with improved wheat seed, fertilizers and insecticides, while the farmers make arrangements to provide water for the crops.
Al-Qasim Aliyu Maji and Mohammed Ado from Gabarin village in Ringim LGA, northwest Jigawa, have spent the last 40 and 30 years producing wheat.
In their view, this year’s harvest surpassed those of the last four years combined.
Ado and Aliyu, Malama Ladi Abdulsalam and Dauda Aliyu Kura, said they are full of thanks to the CBN and FMAN for the yields they recorded this year.
However, another wheat farmer, Akilu Umar, explained that his harvest for this year has fallen short of his expectation.
He told our reporter that at the beginning, going by the assurances of the field officers, he had expected to harvest between 25-30 bags of wheat, but he only harvested 10 bags.
Besides, he lamented that what he spent on maintaining the crops far outweighed the gains he is going to make, a development which, he said, would affect his preparation for the next planting season.
In Kano State, wheat harvesting has just begun because farmers planted late.
Our correspondent also gathered that other issues surrounding this year’s wheat production include the closure of Tiga Dam which affected at least five wheat-producing local governments and the late start-up of the wheat anchor borrower scheme.
Though at the initial stage, farmers in Kano feared a reduction in productivity, which might lead to a possible hike in price, but they realised an increase in the harvest as against the previous years.
According to Malam Abdullahi Bello, the inclusion of wheat in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s intervention under the Anchor Borrowers scheme helped. He however complained that input distribution started late. Despite that, they were able to make good use of it and the result is impressive.
“Though we started late, the inputs given to farmers under the Anchor Borrower scheme, especially the seeds, were very good. So far so good, from what we have started harvesting, I am sure the harvesting season will be good for wheat farmers,” he said.
Similarly, for Malam Ilya Buba in Garun Malam, farmers witnessed serious improvement from the seeds given to them by the CBN, adding that though they have just begun harvesting, indicators showed that it is going to be a huge success.
However, the state chairman of WFAN, Alhaji Musa Shehu, revealed that though the harvesting season had just commenced, wheat farmers are satisfied with the current result in terms of yield.
According to him, farmers recorded a drop in the number of wheat farms cultivated due to some issues related to water and late release of inputs, but the present level of harvest is indeed something to write home about.
The chairman, however, said the association cannot give accurate data or statistics on the level of the harvest because it has just started.
By Vincent A. Yusuf (Abuja), Mahmoud Idris (Katsina), Mohammed Abubakar (Dutse) & Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano)