COVID-19: Rain-fed farming under threat

As rain-fed farming activities begins in some parts of the country, there is mounting concern over input supply due to continued lockdown over the outbreak of coronavirus. Access to farm inputs such as agrochemicals, certified seeds, fertiliser is now difficult as security agencies enforce government shutdown of all business premises including those selling agricultural inputs, as this reporter witnessed in some parts of the FCT and Nasarawa State. Already, farmers are worried that a further lockdown of agro-shops will jeopardise food production and family incomes, which could lead to severe shortage, hunger and national disaster in the coming months when harvest will be expected.

Prof. Edwin Ejoga Idu of the Agricultural Economics & Extension, University of Abuja, also warned that the pandemic will become a determining factor of food security as well as a consequence of food and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria and Africa. “Coronavirus is a major threat to food security in Nigeria and Africa in general, not because it attacks crops or livestock, but because it will reduce the household productivity; and diminish the availability of food through direct loss of family labour and cultivation of marginal lands,” he said, calling for the federal Governments intervention measures.

A farmer, Mr Adam Peter Eloyi, said with the lockdown, farmers would have challenges of accessing inputs, which eventually would result in higher prices for those who can access any within their domain. He also said that “the Covid-19 virus is another game changer for players in the agriculture and food business.” Already, the Maize Association of Nigeria has warned that it would be difficult to meet the target of 22 million metric tonnes for the 2020 wet season unless the federal government intervenes in maize production. Dr Bello Abubakar, who is the President of the association, said in a media chat in Abuja, that the lockdown would have a damaging effect on access to input supply to farmers. He said that the government needs to provide some level of intervention such as inputs subsidy and ease movement of farmers to their farms so that they can meet the 22 million metric tons target for this year. Input shortage looms Many input providers who spoke with Daily Trust said the lockdown has affected the supply of key farm inputs leading to surge in demand as crop farmers particularly in the northcentral states have begun production. In a telephone interview with Daily Trust, the National Chairman of Agro-dealers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Kabiru Umar Fara, said the major challenge remains the fertiliser that is  not available for supply to the farmers. He, however, said following a stakeholders meeting on the issue, the product will be available, perhaps, in the coming week. He also listed other problems to include NAFDAC control on agrochemicals; adding that the shutdown of many financial institutions will affect payment system for many to go to the market. Alhaji Kabiru also said that the federal government had decided to further cut the price of fertiliser from N5, 500 to N5000 as a palliative to farmers.

The chairman of Agro-dealers said the issue of shutdown of agro-shops has been resolved with the office of the National Security Adviser in order not to disrupt the delivery of essential services such as input supply for food security. However, many input sellers in Abuja, Maraba, Akwanga, Lafia and Doma told Daily Trust that men of the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Police and members of Vigilantes prevented them from opening their shops. But the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said discussions were held to allow both livestock and crop farmers attend to their agricultural production services. The Director of information in the ministry, Mr Theodore Ogaziechi on Monday, said disrupting agricultural activities will have immense devastating effect on agricultural production, adding that the ministry will continue to work with relevant agencies to address any challenges regarding food production and supply in the country.

AFAN wades in, distributes 108 tractors to assist farmers All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) has distributed 108 tractors under its tractor hiring scheme to assist farmers as the 2020 rainy season approaches. Speaking during the distribution exercise in Kano, AFAN national chairman, Alhaji Faruk Rabi’u Mudi, said the action was to encourage mass production of food in the wet-season amid COVID-19 outbreak. He said the association had various interventions to assist farmers in the country and also to promote massive production of food commodities as it was projected that the world may suffer food shortage as a result of the pandemic. According to him, under the tractor hiring services of the association, each state including the FCT would get three tractors each to be handled by the state’s chapter of AFAN, adding that the tractors will be hired out to farmers at an affordable rate. Speaking to newsmen in his house in Kano, the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, said what AFAN did was commendable and called for other farmer associations to emulate the gesture in complementing the federal government’s efforts.


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