In Kebbi State farmers have currently commenced preparations for dry season farming. Amidst this, looms the growing fears among agricultural experts and farmers in the state. If current trend of fuel scarcity and unofficial increase in pump price persists, apart from affecting the transportation sector, it will hamper rice cultivation in Kebbi State. Yahya Sarki writes.
An investigation carried out by Leadership confirmed that if the fuel situation is not urgently addressed , it may cripple the success already recorded in the ‘ CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme’ which will lead to increase in rice production in the country.
It will also be recalled that since the inception of the same programme launched by President Muhammad Buhari two years ago in Kebbi as part of his diversification agenda, farmers in the state were able to record over one million tons of rice targeted by the federal government for the state. This is also coupled with increase in yield per hectare from the traditional 3 to 4 tons per hectare to 6 to 7 tons per hectare. President Buhari has also acknowledged in his New Year message to the nation the leading role of the state in rice production, thereby helping to reduce the importation of foreign rice into the country.
Several rice farmers in the state are now groaning under the present fuel scarcity and even in situations where the fuel is available, the price per litre is too exorbitant for purchase because most of the filling stations across the state are selling a litre of fuel at over N200 which is above the government regulated price of N145. According to the farmers, this situation has increased cost of production.
Owing to the present economic conditions, many farmers who have benefitted from the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme for cultivation of rice in the last two seasons, are either having second thoughts of planting again this dry season or even opting out of it until the state of increase in fuel pump price and scarcity is addressed.
A visit by Leadership to some of the FADAMA rice farms across the state indicated that only a handful of farmers can be seen engaging in clearing and preparing the rice fields for the dry season farming, unlike the previous year when at the same period the FADAMA fields were full of farmers engaging in farm work .
Abubakar Babangida is a small scale farmer in the state, he laments on how the problem of fuel will affect this year’s dry season farming, especially the production of rice and ultimately lower production. His reasons are that farmers in this part of the country heavily rely on water pumping machine that uses fuel to irrigate their farms.
“Obviously the current fuel problem will no doubt have serious consequences on rice farming. You know that many people have embraced rice farming, but they are now in fear and contention whether or not to continue. Many who have already started have now stopped. Others who want to join in are also thinking that they cannot. The fact is, this year only few farmers are going to the fields unlike last year when the FADAMA fields were beehive of activities. This will surely reduce the production of rice in the state,” he said.
While he bewailed the current trend of fuel problem in the country, Babangida pleaded with the government to take decisive action to make the commodity available at control price ‘’ You see independent marketers sell fuel at their own rate. Filling stations sell fuel not at the government control price of N145 naira per litre. In some places you buy a litre at N210 while in other places, N220 per litre. Even when the DPR comes and seals a filling station for selling above the control price of N145, within a short time the same filling station will open again for business as usual. Another bottleneck is that most of the time they don’t even consider farmers and sell the commodity to only vehicles and black marketers, he disclosed.
Another young farmer in Bagudo local government area of the state, Nafiu Abubakar who was just coming back from pre planting activities of land clearing and preparation said he buys a litre of fuel at N220 and a gallon cost N1,200 naira. “Many people will not cultivate rice this year because of this situation, there will be less farmers in the field this season. I pray that government should intervene and help us because the current hardship is too much, we cannot sustain it at all,” he pleaded.
Large scale farmers were not left out of the growing fears over the problem of fuel and how it will pose a serious threat to rice farming in the state. He however maintained that even with the current problem at hand, farmers in the state will take the bull by the horns and go to the field. Alhaji Kabiru Sani Giant, is a large scale farmer with 80 hectares of rice farm in Bagudo local government area of Kebbi. “I don’t think the fuel problem will stop farmers from embarking on cultivation of rice or farming other crops as it used to be before.
“If you can recall we faced similar problems when the rice revolution started in the state. At that time we bought a litre of fuel at N250 around Bagudu axis. But that did not deter us from going to the farms although the current problem still poses a threat to increase in production .We only hope that the situation is temporary and we are optimistic that with both the effort of the Federal Government and the State Governor, Senator Bagudu, the problem will be contained and farmers will have succor in doing their farming activities.
He further stressed that if price of fuel is controlled, it will make the prices of rice including other food crops to go down. Sani Giant suggested the establishment of a strict law and price control board in order to check the arbitrary increase of commodities especially of fuel by independent marketers.
“I think the Federal Government in collaboration with lawmakers in the country should enact a law in price control so that no independent marketer will increase pump price. If you look at developed countries where law and order works, nobody can increase the price of what they are selling just like that. An increase in even the price of bread in such countries will trigger protest, but such is not the case with Nigeria. Prices are increased at will, therefore customers are always at the receiving end,”he lamented.
On the other hand, Abdullahi Saidu Argungu another large scale rice and wheat farmer and member of Anchor Borrower Programme in Kebbi State, although fully cognisant about the threat fuel problem poses to production of rice is optimistic the challenge will be overcome and with additional success of increased yield this year.
He opined that Kebbi State government via the Anchor Borrows Programme has started land preparation, water management. And farmers farms were being mapped out and measurement taken on individual farms. Argungu assured farmers that in each of the 21 local government areas of the state, extension workers were mobilised to assist farmers to achieve maximum yield per hectare and deal with any problem they may come across.
‘’ These extension workers are well trained in both theoretical and practical aspect of agriculture. What we need in Kebbi is real support from the government in terms of quick disbursement of funds and inputs “. He expressed optimism that even with the present challenges production will go up “Insha Allah our focus is to triple the production. We do not expect to go backwards, we intend to go ahead three times what we produced,” he assured.
An agricultural expert who is also the programme manager Kebbi ADP, Mohammad Umar Illo while underlining the gravity of the problem of fuel as it affects rice farming, in the end advocated for the use of solar powered machines or water pumps that do not use fuel for irrigation. He commended the resilience of Kebbi rice farmers for continuing to operate under what he describes as most difficult circumstances.
“This issue of fuel scarcity is a very serious one as far as the farmer is concerned and as far as his production and productivity is concerned. This is why I always commend Kebbi farmers for operating under the most difficult situation. Talking about production cost per unit area, you find farmers having to buy petroleum over N200 per litre. They still strive hard to carry on with their production .You see if you compare the production circumstances of Kebbi farmers to other places like Kano and those places that have irrigation structures that do not use pumping, that is to say they irrigate by gravitational force, you have difference in production cost per unit.
“You see places like Kano having to pay N500 or even N10,000 in the whole production season of 3 to 4 months .Here in Kebbi, we irrigate at intervals of 3 to 5 days depending on the size of the farm. The farmer buys a lot of petrol to keep his farm going and if you now bring it to analysis you will find that petrol takes half the production cost and by far higher production cost compared to any other place you can think of in this part of the country.
“It is a problem really because it determines his success, his output. You find the production cost per unit is really high and his margin will be very minimal. Last year our farmers suffered the same problem but they were supported by his Excellency, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu. The governor of Kebbi state took the pains to give petrol to all local government areas to support and cushion fuel cost on the farmers. I think it is now everybody’s concern even the Federal Government like our governor took it strongly. He suggested for the provision of solar powered irrigation machines or water pumps as an alternative for fuel pumps,”he said.
He also added that there is the need to have structures that will minimise use of water pumps, gasoline driven water pumps or fuel driven water pumps. “There is the need for Federal Government to come in and give more support to Kebbi farmers because farmers in Kebbi have accepted the programme and have shown more commitment in rice production “, he appealed.
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