For some Nigerian farmers, the ease of the lockdown imposed by states and the federal government came with mixed feelings.
Across the country, farmers lamented the impact of the lockdown and counted their losses such as late planting, poor harvesting, and shortage of inputs.
Farmers who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said the prices of inputs shot up and many of them were forced to spend their money during the coronavirus-induced lockdown and have been unable to access soft loans.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria had restricted food importation as it strove to produce more of the food it consumes.
The country also shut its borders, largely to prevent the importation and smuggling of items such as rice, poultry products and petrol.
The Nigerian borders remain shut, but smuggling is still rife with the connivance of corrupt security officials.
Joseph Essien, a maize farmer in Akwa Ibom, said the late planting of his crops led to huge losses.
He said the farming season was interrupted thereby leaving farmers jobless and hungry. He added that the interruption resulted in a shortage of input supply to farmers.
Mr Essien said more than half of his crops were rotten before he harvested them.
But it was not all negative stories for all farmers. For many, it was a welcome opportunity to sell their products.
Garba Yahuza, a rice farmer in Kebbi explained how the easing of lockdown put a smile on his face.
“When the lockdown was eased, farmers had access to farms and began to receive income,” he said.
But Mr Yahuza, said the imposed lockdown was a barrier to business, as he had challenges and could hardly move products.
“Farmers in Kebbi had access to their farms but were unable to sell many of their produce due to the interstate lockdown which led to waste and loss of output.”
The government introduced the first lockdown on March 30, 2020 at a time the numbers were comparatively low.
The lockdown crushed the economy as businesses closed.
The government only allowed the movement of essential materials like food and medical supplies. It later allowed the movement of agricultural resources like fertilisers.
At the peak of the lockdown, President Muhammadu Buhari called on farmers to return to the farm.
Another farmer in Enugu, Chinedu Ugwuga, told PREMIUM TIMES that “farmers out of hunger consumed some of their inputs during the lockdown”.
He said when the lockdown was eased the prices of both fertiliser and the available inputs skyrocketed.
He said this made farmers cultivate late with a poor harvest. He added that the poor harvest has caused an increase in the prices of food.
“When the lockdown was eased, there was a shortage in the availability of agro-inputs,” he said. “The federal government is not coming up with any intervention.”
The 2020 World Food Report says 5.1 million people in Nigeria will face food shortage if the pandemic reignites in the coming months.
The report said the number of ‘food-insecure people’ had increased in Nigeria by 1.1 million people since October 2019.
It specifically predicted about 7.1 million more people to be in a worse situation by August 2020 if new measures are not taken.