• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Farmers’ security cost piles pressure on food prices

Farmers’ security cost piles pressure on food prices

…FG concludes plans for food imports

…Nigeria ranks fifth on cost-of-living index

Jamiu Ibrahim farms yams, cassava and rice in Benue, Nasarawa and Zamfara states. Ibrahim told BusinessDay that he is often accompanied by a retinue of security guards any time he and his staff go to any of the farms.

And that comes at a huge cost. In Benue State, he spends N300,000 monthly to protect himself, his workers and his farms. In Zamfara and Nasarawa, he pays N350,000 to private security officers monthly.

“It is even higher during the harvest periods when the staff have to be regularly at the farms,” he said.

“If you rely on Nigerian security agencies to protect you, your staff and farms, then you may need to keep money for kidnappers and terrorists,” he noted.

Read also: Group trains 59,000 smallholder farmers, 2,000 agro-entrepreneurs on vegetable production

Ibrahim further said he does not bear the cost of security alone.

“Of course, I transfer the cost to the consumers. So, the bag of rice you are buying at N80,000 may have N5,000 security cost attached to it. No one will tell you this,” he added.

Farmers are increasingly employing private security guards to shield them from bandits, kidnappers and terrorists who are ravaging all the food-belt zones. The cost ranges from N200,000 to N1 million monthly depending on the location and the security situation in a particular area, BusinessDay learnt.

Farmers who cannot afford security guards pay huge ransoms to kidnappers and terrorists. A BBC Hausa Service report said in 2020 that farmers paid as much as N800,000 before they were allowed to harvest their crops.

Farmers in the North-West region paid N139.5 million to bandits as levies within a period of four years (2020-2023), said an SBM Intelligence report entitled, ‘Levies or Lives – The Dilemma Of Farmers In Northern Nigeria’.

A total of N224.9 million was imposed by bandits, and farmers paid levies before they could access their farmlands, the report noted.

“All these make things difficult for those who depend on agriculture for their livelihood and worsen food availability and affordability in the country. Across the north in the past four years, militants have made a fortune through various levies imposed on agrarian communities running into millions, which have exacerbated food insecurity and made people poorer,” the report said.

Out of the 352 farmers kidnapped in 12 months to January 2022, about 216 were killed, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa.

The high security costs on farmers are contributing to high food costs, which have created a cost-of-living crisis in Africa’s most populous nation.

Kola Aderibigbe, chairman of Agro-Allied Sector, Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said consistent clashes between farmers and cattle herders pose a risk to crop production and high yields.

Read also: I will place emphasis on elderly, youths, farmers, productive sector Akande-Sadipe

“Farmers have now started engaging private security agencies to secure their farmlands, their crops and even themselves. They have to secure their lives as well whenever they go to the farms, which is not viable for agriculture,” he said in response to questions.

“This eventually raises the cost of production, which will be added to the prices sold to consumers,” he said.

According to him, vegetable farmers who are victims of open grazing are major employers of private security guards at their farms.

More than 690 deaths and 130 casualties were recorded in 13 months to February 2024 in Benue State alone, a recent data by SBM Intelligence showed.

The data further showed that between January 2023 and February 2024, 19 local governments were deliberately attacked by bandits in Benue, killing and inflicting injuries on farmers.

Sharing a personal experience with BusinessDay, Aderibigbe said herders attacked his own farm recently.

“During a visit to my farm, herders invaded the farm with almost 200 cows. We sent them out of the place and another set came. This happened three times,” Aderibigbe stated.

Abiodun Olorundero, managing partners at Prasinos Farms, said employing the services of private securities has been a common practice among farmers. This, according to him, is part of the reasons why food prices are soaring.

“Before we shut down our farm in Oyo, that’s our AquaShoots Limited Farm, we had day and night security guards on our farm. We were paying them between N400,000 to N500,000 every month,” he told BusinessDay.

He said the cost expended on security increases the overall cost of food production, which further raises food prices in various markets.

Olorundero noted that until open grazing and insecurity are tackled, farmers in Africa’s biggest nation will continue to use the services of private securities to secure their lives and farms.

“Usually, you use security firms to protect your lives, but in this case, we are protecting our farms from being encroached by cattles,” he added.

An Agora Policy 2022 report listed the employment of private securities as a means to tackle growing insecurity in the agric sector.

Nigeria has been ranked as the fifth African country hardest hit by the global cost-of-living crisis as pressure continues to pile on households.

Read also: Oyo trains farmers to boost food production

According to the 2024 cost-of-living index released on Wednesday by Numbeo, a data and research platform, Africa’s largest economy ranks fifth with 31.4 while Cameroon with 37.3 score stands as the country with highest cost-of-living crisis in Africa.

Zimbabwe, Mauritius and South Africa are ahead of Nigeria with 37.2, 37.1 and 34.5 scores respectively.

Others in the top 10 category include: Ghana (30.9), Kenya (30.2), Botswana (30.1), Morocco (29.5) and Uganda (29.1) accordingly.

Food inflation reached 40.66 percent in May 2024 from 24.82 percent in May 2023, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

President Bola Tinubu recently inaugurated a livestock reform committee to supervise the affairs of the newly constituted Ministry of Livestock, a move that is appreciated by farmers who say it is a step in the right direction, especially in ending the conflict between herder-farmer clashes in the country.

Maybe the government is beginning to realise the impact of insecurity on crop prices. Abubakar Kyari, agric minister, recently announced a 150-day duty-free import window for food commodities.

“The Federal Government will import 250,000 metric tons of wheat and 250,000 metric tons of maize,” he said.

However, an analyst told BusinessDay that Nigeria is yet to come to terms with the concept of national security, which he said involves what the government does to make its citizens live well and live long.

“Perhaps, it is time to interrogate the reality that ‘national security’ goes well beyond guns, bombs and bullets and indeed is first about positive health and education outcomes and the astute management of the economy,” the analyst noted.