Farmers have attributed the rising cost of food prices in Nigeria to drought and lack of incentives.
The prices of food items in the country have doubled in recent times, exposing many individuals and households further to hunger and starvation.
In Lagos and Port Harcourt, a bag of rice, which is a staple, has gone from N18,000 to N32,000.
A bag of onions, which used to sell for N25,000, now goes for N76,000 with one piece going for N100 in most markets across the country.
The price of a Mudu/Derica of beans has also gone up from N250/300 to N500 in some markets.
Shedding light into why the price of food items had been shooting up, Adeola Adegoke, National President of Cocoa Farmers Association, told SaharaReporters on Monday that lack of rainfall combined with lack of incentives from the government was chiefly responsible for the hike in price.
He said, “The truth of it is that we cannot run away from the reality of the change in our weather system. When you look at it in the last six months we have noticed a lot of paradigm shift that rain-fed agriculture is not sustainable and because of what we are seeing today coupled with the COVID restrictions that have brought lockdown which invariably affected farmers and also decreased production and productivity per most of the commodities which Cocoa is also one that has been affected and other food crops.
“What has led to this is that the amount of rainfall has reduced, the peak period that most of these products are supposed to be growing, fruiting and giving increment, the rain stopped abruptly and for two close to three months, the rain did not fall.
“Most of the things yam, coconut, pepper, tomatoes, vegetables God destroyed because of the excessive heat and this affected the production and the moment you see scarcity, what happens when demand is above supply? It gives room for skyrocketing of prices.”
Adegoke also attributed the cause of the problem in part to the high cost of production, which farmers have to bear without government subsidies.
“Another area is the input when you look at it, most are produced by companies and they are imported and when the farmers go to buy it you see that the prices are just jumping and at the end of the day when you buy input such as fertiliser, herbicides fungicides at high prices — because for agriculture to be sustainable you have to make it a business, there must be profit margin, that is the only way.
“So for us to create food security is to have a balanced ratio so what we have seen is that farmer shave the high cost of input which invariably affects outputs although in cocoa it is different because the farmers are not even the one giving the price, it is the Europeans, the Americans who are the chocolate consumers that disrate the price but when it comes to other food crops, the truth of it is is that input has been very high.
“And that is why we have been saying that for sustainable Agriculture, the government must come to the aid of the farmers by subsidising the input because the moment the capacity of farmers cannot absorb the input mechanism that are drivers of the food crops or other commodities, what you see is prices that will skyrocket because if farmers cannot make a profit, they will be discouraged and if they are discouraged it limits the number of farmers that will produce next season,” he said.
He called for improvement in infrastructure that make farming easy and mitigate the impact of climate change and incentives that can encourage young people in the country to take up farming.
Adegoke said, “Another thing is the weather problem and that is why we are encouraging irrigation, the government and the private farmers' organisation must look into how to create a modular education system and that is why when you see what is happening in Isreal and other countries you see a kind of promising agriculture that happens every season.
“There is no season that you can say this is a rainy or dry season because they have agriculture all through and most of their planted crops are given production throughout the year because irrigation is key.
“We can see that it is better in the northern area because they have a lot of dams and the farmers key into it by making sure they extend pipes to their different farms unlike what is happening in the southern areas; there are no dams.
“Infrastructure such as road networks have been so bad. For example, a farmer that is in a remote area, before you carry a bad of cocoa to the outer area you realise that you are spending about five thousand Naira, that is an extra cost. Ditto if it is another bag of vegetable, a bag of cocoyam or a bag of yam — all these if you are going to transport it at the end of the day, it must manifest when you are to sell it and that is why I believe these are carryover expenditure.
“Sometimes we have a higher demand than supply and that is why the country must encourage youths to go into agriculture, many of our farmers today are old which is so rampant in the cocoa sector. The average age of a farmer is 65.
“It is happening because there is no better incentive for the farmer just like what is responsible for the #EndSARS because you cannot say the youth should go into agriculture when there are no roads, even when you go into your farms you cannot access it, the price of the input, when you sell the product at the end of the day you cannot make gains.
“We have the average age because the youths have refused to key into it and why they are refusing is because it is not encouraging in terms of profitability.
“When you look at it in terms of infrastructure, road, light, in fact in the urban area they are not even enjoying light not to talk of the rural areas. The health sector — how many clinics do we have in rural communities? All these are making the youths to run away from it.”