Stability in prices of food crops being experienced this year is taking its toll on farming activities in Bauchi state, raising fears of possible drop in food production this farming season.
Survey conducted by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) indicated that a lot of farmers have either switched from cultivation of food to cash crops, or reduced the size of their farmlands following the loss they incurred occasioned by price stability.
Some of them told NAN that having spent a lot of resources on farm input and labour last year, prices of food crops never went beyond what obtained during harvest period, thereby making it difficult to recoup what they spent, talk less of making gains.
They therefore said they could not afford to ‘gamble again’ this farming season, hence had abandoned food crops and delved into cash crops, which rise in prices was guaranteed.
The farmers listed maize, sorghum,beans and rice as the items which prices had remained stable since the beginning of this year.
They said most of them had now shifted to cultivating soya beans and sesame seed, which are cash crops that often appreciate in value.
Malam Hassan Madaki, Chairman of a farmers cooperative society in Kajitu village in the outskirts of Bauchi metropolis, told NAN that of the about 100 registered farmers in his organization, over 50 of them had reduced the size of their farmlands, and 40 others shifted from cultivation of food to cash crops.
“Last year around this time, prices of 80 kg bags of maize, sorghum,beans and rice were N12,000; N13,000; N24,000 and N36,000.
“As I speak to you today, 80kg bags of maize, sorghum,beans and rice cost N5,000; N6,000; N8,000 and N24,000.
“This is as against the current prices of soya beans and sesame seed, which cost N17,000 and N30,000 respectively.
“This development has forced a shift and most members of my society have resolved to cultivate either sesame seed, or soya beans,” he said.
A farmer in Kajitu village, Mohammed Jibrin, said like most farmers, he incurred losses this year as he could not recoup even the cost of fertilizer and other input spent last year, just as Abubakar Ladan, a maize farmer in the same village, narrated similar experience.
Also narrating his ordeal to NAN, Saidu Samaila and Mohammed Isa, who cultivated beans last year, said their experience was not only pathetic, but even an ‘embarrassment’.
“Can you imagine the price of beans dropping as the year progresses?.
“I have never experienced such a thing; at most, price of beans increase slightly, or remain stable, but in this case, it dropped.
“At the beginning, I was feeling disturbed, but much later, the situation turned to embarrassment as people started mocking and laughing at us,” said Isa.
For Haruna Samaila, a sorghum and maize farmer, the authorities were to blame for the predicament.
“Nigerians were begged, cajoled and lobbied to embrace farming to enhance food security, which we obliged.
“Now that prices have fallen to the detriment of farmers, we have been abandoned to carry the burden of our losses, without even words of consolation,” he fumed.
Also commenting on the development, Malam Ja’afaru Ilela, a director with Bauchi State Agricultural Development Authority (BSADP) in charge of publicity,confirmed to NAN that most farmers across the state had shifted to the cultivation of soya beans and sesame seed.
He expressed fears that such a situation might result in low production of food crops this year, thereby inflicting scarcity and hiking prices.
He suggested that government should work on enhancing the value chain of food crops with a view to adding value to such crops.
Alhaji IsaTahir, Chairman of Bauchi-based Greenland Farmers and Business Solution, an agro-allied company, said about 50 per cent of the over 1,000 farmers he had been dealing with ‘‘have backed out of farming this year.”
He advised government at all levels to make it a policy to be mopping-up excess food crops any year good harvest was recorded in the country.