• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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BusinessDay

FX, insecurity killing our business, farmers cry out

Agric sector stuck in slow lane as insecurity worsens

… say neighbouring countries now cherry-pick Nigeria’s agric produce

Farmers have decried Nigeria’s heightening insecurity and high foreign exchange rate as killing their businesses, impacting production and threatening the food security ambition of President Bola Tinubu-led government.

In an exclusive interview with BusinessDay in Abuja, Kabir Ibrahim, the national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), lamented that farmers were abandoning their farms due to the worsening security situation across the country.

Read also: Farmers see security, others piling pressure on Nigeria’s agric sector in 2024

“We are faced with so many challenges, especially now. The biggest challenge is insecurity. Farming is a rural vocation; there is some bit of urban agriculture and all that. But essentially it’s a rural vocation. You need to go to the villages and hinterlands to be able to do that. But if there is insecurity, you have no confidence in cultivating anything in those areas.”

He noted that the challenges faced by the farmers were evident in the present high food inflation, which the National Bureau of Statistics reported at 33.93 percent in December 2023.

According to the bureau, the rise in food inflation on a year-on-year basis was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, oil and fat, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, meat, fruit, milk, cheese, and egg.

The AFAN president called on the government to put in place measures to address the surging inflation which has continued to erode the value of the naira which sold at N1,445/$ at the official forex market and N1500/$ at the parallel window.

“We cannot even rationalise today that the dollar sells for about N1500, which is crazy. And there is nothing you can do or visibly we’re doing that will make it not go to N2,000. The neighbouring countries that we had looked upon as very poor, their currencies are getting stronger than the naira.

“And then because Africa is one market because we signed up to Africa Continental Free Trade Agreements, those countries come to Nigeria to buy our products and they consider them cheap. So, the pressure on our agricultural produce is not only from within, it’s also from without. So, we have accumulated all these things that will make life unbearable to the common man,” he said.

Ibrahim further lamented the high cost of transportation and its effect on the cost of food in the country. According to him, transporting foods from farmlands to the market has been a difficult task due to poor road infrastructure which also encourages post-harvest losses.

For him, achieving sustainable agriculture requires focus, education, mechanisation, and storage, among other things, to upscale productivity. “Nigeria’s agriculture needs higher investment than we have now from both the private sector and the government.

“A lot of things are happening, even embracing biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) foods to scale our productivity because of our growing population. 30 years from today, Nigeria will have 400 million people. If today with 270 million people we are grappling with food security, what will happen in 30 years?

Also, to scale up farming activities, we need to provide mechanisation; we need to replace human power with machine power. The penetration of tractors in Nigeria is very small compared to other countries like Kenya. Then the affordability of some inputs by farmers is also a big problem.

If you notice now, the price of fertilisers of any blend is never less than N20,000 and that is not affordable by farmers.

“A lot of work has to be done, people have to wake up and it’s everybody’s problem; you and I because the government has no farm. The people have to be incentivised to get into agriculture and they have to be given the enabling environment to enable them produce because what they are doing is for God and the country.