A cross section of Nigerian farmers in the North West have stated that poor returns on investment in the cultivation of food crops is forcing them to concentrate on cash crops to generate income, a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) 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 the establishment of commodity boards to protect farmers from middlemen 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 in it.
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 NAN 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, among others.
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 however, lamented that there is little support from banks in the country to complement the President’s efforts.
He advocated that banks should grant one-digit loan to farmers, while research institutes should support with 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 wish of the institute is for agriculture to be for food and money.
According to Ishiyaku, everything a farmer produces today is cash crop, because everyone would want 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 will eradicate poverty is by practising agriculture as a business.
“For instance, a liter of groundnut oil is more costly than a liter of petrol.
“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 eradication of poverty.