• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Farm yields set to increase as military clears Boko Haram

farm-yeilds

The production of food and cash crops such as rice, wheat, onions, vegetables, tomatoes, Gum Arabic and beans is set to rise, as the military weakens Boko Baram and captures more territories that were previously in the grasp of the insurgents in Nigeria’s North-East.

This is expected to reduce the food import bill and make Nigeria self sufficient in that regard, as she struggles to control cost in the face of recently dwindling earnings from crude oil. It is also expected to generate more scarce foreign exchange through the export of raw and value adding agricultural commodities. Gum Arabic, for instance, is a major export from the region.

The spate of insurgency in the war-torn North-Eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe has reduced, as the regional military forces, made up of Nigerian, Chadian and Cameroonian soldiers rout Boko Haram and bring the territories such as Gujba, Gulani and other parts of the tripod states held hostage by Boko Haram, under their control.

Consequently,  farmers who earlier abandoned their fields and ran to relatively peaceful states such as Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto, are now gradually returning, raising hopes that the production of cash and food crops will return to the previously high levels.

This development is particularly timely, as the seasonal rains, which water the fields for bountiful harvests are expected to begin  mere weeks away, between March and April.

“This year, people have really gone back to their farms,” said Abdurahaman Modibbo Girei, president, Adamawa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a telephone interview with BusinessDay.

“Rice, vegetables and other foods will be produced this year. But the farmers are short of inputs including fertilizer and improved seedlings. These are their handicaps,” Girei said.

He added that people, including the business community, no longer entertain the idea of running away as they await opportunities and go about their businesses without necessarily waiting on the government’s provision.

The United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) projects that in 2015/16, wheat production in Nigeria would decline to 60,000 tons, representing a drop of approximately 17 per cent from the previous year of 70,000 tons. This, according to USDA, is due to the dislocation of farmers by the Boko Haram insurgency and unfavourable climatic conditions in major wheat growing areas.

Local watchers say the situation has improved and expectations are much more positive.

Insurgents crippled businesses in the three states of the North-East in the last five years, destroying masts belonging to MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat in local governments such as Michika, Madagali, Maiha, Gombi, Mubi North and Mubi South in Adamawa; Konduga, Bama, Gwoza, among numerous others in Borno; as well as Gujba and Gulani in Yobe State,

Osondu Nwokoro, director, regulatory affairs, Airtel Nigeria, at a media briefing in Lagos  in 2014 complained that 53 of the telecoms’ sites were directly affected by the bomb attacks while 193 sites were impacted in all, as huge outages were sustained. This crippled communication among residents, including the business community, as companies shut down their operations and farmers fled, while the backward integration programme of the Federal Government in some parts of the region was clamped down.    

“Insurgency is reduced now. Business activities which were rated about 25 percent before, are now about 60 percent,” Bukar Jallaba, director-general, Yobe Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told BusinessDay on the phone.

“Gujba and Gulani and some parts of Damaturu, earlier in the hands of Boko Haram, are now in the firm control of the army. So it’s good for us, for farmers and for everybody,” Jallaba said.

Findings show that manufacturing firms such as Faro Bottling Company, Bajabure Industrial Complex, among others, are in full operation in Yobe, though their markets have been affected by low patronage. In the three states, untreated water sold in tied celophane, rather than processed sachet water, is also thriving, while private security business is booming. Traders are also packaging garri in small sachets for solders fighting Boko Haram, who may not have food handy when they are hungry.

Mohammadu Rijiya, president, Borno Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had earlier told BusinessDay that cement was being shipped to the region by Dangote Cement, while private security business was equally thriving.

ODINAKA ANUDU