Food prices may drop in months as about 323,000 hectares of farmland have been put into cultivation for the 2024 dry season farming, writes
Farmers and agro-dealers are optimistic that the cost of food items could drop in the coming months following the cultivation of about 323,000 hectares of farmlands across the country with the support of the Federal Government.
A report on the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro-Pocket Project, January 2024, by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, shows that four major crops: wheat, rice, maize and cassava are currently being cultivated in large proportions, starting with wheat.
The document, obtained by our correspondent from the FMAFS, states that the targeted hectares being put into cultivation under the 2023/2024 dry season farming for the various crop value chains are wheat, 123,000 hectares; rice, 150,000 hectares; maize, 30,000 hectares; and cassava, 20,000 hectares.
It notes that the production of wheat has commenced in 15 wheat-producing states, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.
“The decision to start wheat production was informed by the fact that the crop is time specific, especially its fixed or pre-determined planting window. The implementation under the 2023/2024 dry season programme was then designed to be carried out in two phases.
“They include the wheat value chain from November 15, 2023, to December 15, 2023, and later extended to December 20, 2023 for Jigawa and Borno states, while rice, maize and cassava value chains are slated for January – February, 2024,” the agric ministry stated in its document.
Commenting on the decision of the Federal Government to put up more land areas for cultivation, the President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim, says it is targeted at increasing food production.
He says, “It is primarily to increase food production. The government does not have a farm; rather it is supporting farmers to cultivate that number of hectares. It is also part of the 500,000 hectares mentioned by Mr President the other time.
“This is the expansion that the government will make. You know we have a lot of arable lands that have been taken over by forests, so we need to expand the cultivable and irrigable land because we are only cultivating about 40 per cent of our available land.
“So, the President said they will increase the cultivable land by 500,000 hectares and this is already an encouragement to farmers, though there have been challenges lately. However, we are not focusing on the challenges now.”
On July 13, 2023, President Bola Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security and during his New Year address to the nation on January 1, 2024, the President promised to boost food security this year.
He reiterated during his New Year speech that the government would cultivate about 500,000 hectares of farmlands to combat hunger nationwide.
“I am well aware that for some time now the conversations and debates have centred on the rising cost of living, high inflation which is now above 28 per cent and the unacceptable high under-employment rate.
“To ensure constant food supply, security and affordability, we will step up our plan to cultivate 500,000 hectares of farmlands across the country to grow maize, rice, wheat, millet and other staple crops,” Tinubu states.
But figures from the agric ministry’s document show that so far 323,000 hectares of farmlands are being cultivated, as farmers expressed optimism that this is going to impact positively on food prices soon.
“In the current circumstances of our country, this is something that is germane and desirable. We know that globally there is the call for climate smart agriculture, where you have smaller land areas from which you have more yields.
“However, in the short term and where there is not enough technology, you can expand the cultivable land because we have smallholder farmers, and therefore the more the merrier.
“So, the President is addressing an issue that is germane to Nigerians by expanding the cultivable land in the country and we are pleased with that move and support from the government,” the AFAN president says.
Commenting on the impact of this on the cost of food items in coming months, Kabir says, “Of course, if you have more food on the table in the market, the cost of the commodities will drop. Simple economics shows you that the more the availability, the more ability you have to meet the demand.
“Therefore, there won’t be stress in the supply to cause inflation. So theoretically we will not have food inflation once we are able to successfully cultivate the over 300,000 hectares and pursue the 500,000 hectares.”
He says the government should continue the drive to increase the cultivable land, “because our farmers are smallholders and they need land to be able to produce optimally. So, more land should be opened.”
Kabir, however, expresses concern, as he notes that the devaluation of the naira remains a challenge in Nigeria.
“For no matter what we do, if the dollar sells for N1,500 today, it will significantly drag down the purchasing power of the citizens.
“So what the CBN should do now, more than anything else, is to shore up the purchasing power of the naira. And that means the investment should not only be in agriculture, but in other sectors of the economy including the energy sector, transportation, etc.
“We need to add value to what we produce, export them and earn foreign exchange because if we don’t earn enough forex there is no way we can support the naira or stop it from crashing,” he says.
To achieve the target of increased food production, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security said it has continued to interface with state governments, reminding them of the need to have more agric extension workers, among other things.
It says the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Abukakar Kyari, met recently with the Governors of Ekiti State, Abiodun Oyebanji; Kebbi State, Mohammed Idris; Sokoto State, Ahmad Aliyu; and Niger State, Mohammed Bago, to discuss food production issues.
In his presentation during the meeting with the Niger State Governor, Mohammed Bago, the minister notes that the Federal Government significantly deployed the lessons learnt from the first phase of the dry season food production which began with wheat in 15 participating states including Niger.
“The endowments of Niger are not in doubt. With the largest landmass in the country, abundant water resources and vast arable land, Niger State easily offers itself for massive agricultural production.
“We recognise that fundamental governance issues as elsewhere is to translate these agricultural potentials into sustainable reality, against the backdrop of President Bola Tinubu Renewed Hope Agenda with great expectation for food security and related matters.
“It is for this reason that we at FMAFS have consistently canvassed partnership and collaboration between the Federal Government and state governments. We believe that a firm handshake between the two tiers of government at the minimum should produce salutary results in our collective quest for food security and attendant value chain benefits,” Kyari remarks.
He, however, pointed out that Niger State rolled out agricultural input support to farmers including the dry season farming launched recently, the distribution of assorted fertilisers to farmers across the Local Governments in the state.
The minister further notes that the outcome of the review of the implementation of the dry season wheat production in the 15 partcipating states has provided a pathway to a more successful implementation of subsequent programmes and initiatives.
“Against this backdrop, the Expression of Interest for the Dry Season Production of Rice, Maize and Cassava that I sent to all the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory which elicited a great deal of enthusiasm, encapsulates a design structure.
“This structure speaks to farmers’ data integrity, inventory of available irrigable lands as well as functional irrigation infrastructure with the primary aim of determining the readiness of participating states,” Kyari declares.
He tells the governor that the agric ministry is dedicated to implementing stringent measures in the dry/wet season farming for rice, maize and cassava, to ensure transparent distribution of agro-inputs and targeting genuine farmers.
“Collaboration with states, local governments, traditional rulers, NGOs, and relevant MDAs will be crucial in achieving this goal,” the minister notes.
He adds, “The ministry is focused on ramping up massive production of staple crops using technology and mechanisation to achieve this goal. We are grateful for the support and guidance of Mr President as we work towards a more food-secure Nigeria.
“We are determined to drive agricultural transformation, enhancing productivity and ensuring that our farmers have the necessary support to thrive. Our goal also includes ensuring food security and driving down food inflation.”
Kyari, who also makes similar presentations to other state governors, says farmers’ inability to access agro-inputs even at the current subsidised rate as observed during the last intervention for the dry season wheat production programme is of great concern to President Tinubu.
“To ameliorate this, Mr President has graciously approved further support to farmers in subsequent interventions.
“While Mr President through FMAFS continues to support multifaceted interventions to farmers at the sub-national level, it is clear, however, that agro-inputs alone may not suffice in our collective efforts in boosting food production at the desired levels to reduce food inflation and enhance the welfare of farmers and overall productivity.
“You will agree with me that in addition, more efforts need to be made towards increasing the number of extension agents available in states while prioritising the capacity and well-being of the existing ones,” the minister tells the state governors.
To further support the drive for food security, agricultural input dealers recently inaugurated a compliance monitoring team to tackle the incessant cases of malpractices in the sales/distribution of agro-commodities across the country.
Operators, under the aegis of the Nigeria Agro Input Dealers Association, unveil the task force in Abuja and mandate the team to stop all forms of round tripping of agro-commodities, particularly fertilisers.
“As we all are aware, human beings all over the world are bound to always want to cut corners and that is why laws/punishments are established in statute books to address these behavioural patterns accordingly.
“It is on this note and recognising that we have some of us that are culpable of these malpractices in the sales/distribution of agricultural inputs that this compliance monitoring team is being put in place in all the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory with a view to addressing the malpractice accordingly,” the President, NAIDA, Kabiru Fara, says.