This time last year, a 50kg bag of cowpea (beans) at Auta-Balefi Beans Market along the Abuja-Keffi highway cost between N6,000 and N9,000 depending on the quality and variety the buyer wanted.
This year, however, the situation is different. The price of the same quantity now goes for between N19,000 and N25,000 depending on the variety and quality of the beans.
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Daily Trust gathered at the market that despite the hike in price, certain varieties – like the brown and the milk coloured beans – are in short supply and the little available is in high demand.
About 10 truckloads of beans leave the market weekly, according to sources, but the quantum now in the market is just a fraction of what was harvested last year.
Even the bean chaff used for livestock feed, which was sold at N1000 now goes for between N3000 and N4000 per 100kg bag.
Most of the farmers who supply beans to the market are those who fled insurgency from Borno and Adamawa states.
Mr Samson Bulam, a farmer, told this reporter that the 2020 harvest was low compared to that of 2019.
“In 2019, we had a good harvest and everywhere there was beans. Then, we were even begging people to come and buy. I remember selling the 50kg bag at N5000 because I needed money to solve an urgent matter. But last year (2020), harvest was very low because the rains suddenly stopped so the beans could not do well,” he added.
Another farmer, Joseph Bitrus, told Daily Trust at the market that the early cessation of rain and the apparent lack of morning dew resulted in the poor yield and even the poor quality of what was harvested from most farms.
“When the rains suddenly stopped, even by 6 am as you go to the farm, there was no dew or moisture in the atmosphere to wet the soil. Everywhere suddenly became dry,” he said.
But one farmer, who simply addressed himself as Mr Albert seems to like the situation. His reason was that the little harvested in 2020 attract more value than the plenty harvested in 2019.
“I like it,” he said. “In 2019, I harvested 11 bags, sold them at N7,000 each and I made N77,000. I rented the farm at N15,000. If you add other costs, like fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, my effort was like a waste. But this year, I got only six bags and that can give me about N150,000. I can even get N200,000 if I leave it for a while,” he explained.
In Taraba State, our correspondent reports that poor harvest and high demand have pushed the price of beans up in the state.
It was gathered that there was poor harvest as a result of the change in the rain pattern in the state during the last season, which resulted in poor beans harvest.
It was also learnt that many crops on many farms dried off as a result of the sudden cessation of rainfall in many parts of the state.
A farmer, Alhaji Chindo Makurna, told our reporter that farmers did not witness bumper harvest due to short period of rainfall across the state.
According to him, farmers who harvested no fewer than 50 bags of beans in previous years, could only harvest between 5 and 20 bags because their crops did not mature as rainfall stopped early last year.
It was gathered that few weeks after harvest, a 50kg bag of white beans was sold at N15,000 due to scarcity.
Daily Trust gathered that the price of the commodity has continued to increase as more buyers trooped to the state to make bulk purchases.
Middlemen, mostly from the Southern part of the country arrive in Mutum Biyu, Iware and Maihula grains markets, in their numbers, and make bulk purchases of the commodity on weekly basis.
It was further gathered that the activities of middlemen are responsible for the increase in the price of beans which is now sold at N25,000 per 100kg bag.
Taraba State, it is gathered, is one of the major producers of white and red beans with about 14 local government areas producing the commodity in commercial quantity.
A similar scenario is playing out in Kano State, with a spike in the price of beans which is attributed by some grains merchants to massive hoarding by merchants and big companies.
According to a merchant at Dawanau International Grains Market, Alhaji Usman Bello, many merchants and companies are currently mopping up beans and other commodities at the market, thereby creating scarcity and hike in the price of beans.
A visit to the market showed that a 100kg of small pod beans sold at N26, 000 last week is now sold at N32,000, with indicators showing that the hike in price will be continuous as demand in the commodity is increasing due to scarcity.
Another merchant in the market, Alhaji Nasiru Mamman, told our reporter that the hike in beans price is attributed to the setbacks due to unhealthy preservation methods and as such its market value has dwindled in the last three years.
He added that many beans farmers have abandoned its cultivation while others reduced the size of land they cultivate hence the scarcity and hike in its price.
He further revealed that in view of the poor preservation problem, the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI) was at the market to educate us on the appropriate handling of pesticides to save lives and restore international confidence in Nigerian grains.