A cross-section of Nigerian farmers in the North West has stated that poor returns on investment in food crops cultivation are forcing them to concentrate on cash crops to generate income, a survey has shown.
The farmers and other stakeholders said abandonment of food crops such as Maize, Sorghum and Millet is largely due to low prices, which is not enough to cover what is spent during cultivation.
They suggest establishing commodity boards to protect farmers from intermediaries and ensure better prices for food crops.
Malam Abba Muhammad, a large scale farmer in Katsina, said that he abandoned food crop farming because there is no gain.
Muhammad urged Government to protect local farmers by finding markets for their produce, and help to checkmate the activities of the middlemen.
“The situation always throws the general populace including the local farmers into hunger and poverty, because the local farmers are forced by circumstances to sell their products to middlemen at give-away prices.
“I decided to opt for cash crops like cassava, sesame, wheat, ginger, cashew, orange, among others because manufacturing companies and industries need these as raw materials and they buy them at exorbitant prices,” he said.
However, another farmer in Katsina, Alhaji Bishir Yusuf said prices of food crops have increased in the current season and farmers are getting good rewards for their efforts.
“A 100 kg bag of maize sold between N8,000 and N10,000 before is now sold between N14,000 to N16,000 depending on the location.
“Similarly, a 50 kg bag of local rice sold between N12,000 and N16,000 is now sold between N22,000 and N24,000.
“If the trend continues, more farmers will go into food crops production in the coming seasons,” Yusuf said.
Conversely, an agronomist, Malam Isma’il Dahiru told newsmen that farmers are abandoning cultivation of food crops for cash crops because of so many difficulties and challenges.
Dahiru said these include lack of access roads, no access to markets and bank loans, lack of improved seedlings, absence of mechanization, inadequate research and extension services.
The Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Katsina State Chapter, Alhaji Ya’u Gwajogwajo, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has good agricultural policies and programmes for farmers.
Gwajogwajo lamented that there is little support from banks in the country to complement the President’s efforts.
He advocated that banks should grant a one-digit loan to farmers. Simultaneously, research institutes should support new seedlings to boost agricultural production and achieve food security.
Prof. Mohammed-Faguji Ishiyaku, Executive Director, Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said the institute’s wish is for agriculture to be for food and money.
According to Ishiyaku, everything a farmer produces today is a cash crop. Everyone wants to have a farm to grow enough rice, maize or sorghum to feed his family and sell for cash.
“Our wish generally is for all our agriculture to be for cash; cash for the farmer. Farmers should produce what they eat and sell to solve other family needs,” he said.
Ishiyaku added that agriculture for cash is in line with the Federal Government’s agenda on agriculture.
The director advised that efforts should be geared toward producing more to meet local consumption and for export.
He noted that the only way agriculture would eradicate poverty is by practicing agriculture as a business.
“For instance, a liter of groundnut oil is more costly than a liter of petrol.
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“This indicates that there are commodities that generate more money than petrol, which further shows the enormous potentialities of the country to make more money from agriculture,” Ishiyaku said.
He reiterated that agriculture is for making food and generating income towards the eradication of poverty.
Similarly, Alhaji Ahmed Abubakar, Manager, Maigana Zone of Kaduna State Agricultural Development Agency, said food crops such as rice and maize are also cash crops because farmers are making money from it.
According to Abubakar, farmers are shifting to cash crops because they make a lot of money than from food crops.
“In a hectare of maize or rice farm, a farmer may realize about 50 bags to 70 bags of the product, which is about N500,000 to N700,000.
“Meanwhile, in a hectare of a tomato farm, the farmer may get between N1 million naira to N1.7 million,” he said.
The official noted that cash crops farming is all year round. In contrast, food crops are seasonal, largely during the rainy season.
He added that farmers who produce vegetables such as chili, pepper, tomatoes and others, harvest the produce more than seven times, unlike food crops such as maize and guinea corn, which are harvested once in a season.
Abubakar said the common cash crops produced in the area are beans, soya – beans, tomatoes, pepper, carrot, onions, and cabbage.
However, he warned that abandoning food crops for cash crops will hinder food sufficiency for families and the nation.
Abubakar said East-West Seed organizations support vegetable farmers in the area, and the German Government sponsored GIZ.
“They support farmers with improved agronomic practices in maize production and business,” he said.
Malam Dalhatu Aliyu, a farmer in Yaskwake Mai-Dabino, Zaria Local Government, said he is into mixed farming, cultivating both food and cash crops.
Aliyu said that he usually begins with onions, after that pepper, sweet potatoes, maize, okra, `Zobo’ and tomatoes.
He added that he has so far harvested pepper twice in the current season while saying that maize and sweet potatoes can be harvested at any time.
Aliyu said mixed farming gives him more money, adding that he uses the money realized from the onions to plant other crops and vegetables.
Meanwhile, the Kano State Emergency Management Agency said that thousands of farmlands were lost to flooding in 27 local government areas.
The Executive Secretary, Mr Sale Jili, told reporters that the Agency had conducted damage assessment and distributed relief materials to the affected persons. Here