By Denen Achussah
Farmers as well as agricultural experts have warned of an impending food crisis in the country following the worsening security situation which has forced many farmers in Benue and other crisis prone states to abandon their farmlands for fear of attacks by armed herdsmen.
In an interview with The Voice a cross section of respondents warned that the escalating cost in price of food stuff is band to take turn for the worse unless there is a “conscious effort by government and non-governmental organizations as well as private business owners to enhance food production” in order to avert what they call the impending food crisis.
In addition to the security challenges, the inadequate rainfall witnessed so far this year may add to the already dire situation.
And to add impetus to the dire food challenge, a 2021 World Bank report, “an increasing number of countries are facing growing levels of acute food insecurity, reversing years of development gains. Even before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, chronic and acute hunger was on the rise due to various factors including conflict, socio-economic conditions, natural hazards, climate change and pests.”
Also, it said that “Agricultural Commodity Price Index remained near its highest level since 2013, and as of June 15, 2021, was approximately 35% higher than in January 2020.
“Cereal prices are 43% higher than in January 2020. Surging prices reflect strong demand, along with weather uncertainties, macroeconomic conditions, and COVID-19-related supply disruptions, even though the global production outlook for major grains remains good,” the report stated.
A public affairs analyst, Archibong Esuene has stated in an interview with The Voice that “food prices are rising at geometric levels in the face of factors inhibiting food production.”
According to Esuene, the food price hike points to increasing food prices as indicator that there is danger ahead.
However, Sughnen Anema, a farmer and community leader has posited that “there may be food shortages due to what he termed inadequate rainfall. “The rainfall this year is irregular; it has never been like this,” he stated.
Meanwhile, a market survey carried out by The Voice in some markets in the state showed that value of food produce has risen to an all-time high, just as prices have jumped astronomically. The items include yam, cassava, fruits among others.
At Ihugh and Akerior Markets where The Voice Correspondent visited, for instance, a bag of garri is traded for between N28, 000. 00 and N40, 000.00.
Terseer Geri, a trader from Akerior Market who spoke with The Voice confirmed that the price of garri had reached N40, 000 per bag from about N20, 000 same time last year. He said the prices are likely to go up.
In Akpagher Market, Gboko Local Government Area, the highest grade of yams is being sold for between N180, 000 and N200, 000 per 100 tubers. Same quality and quantity of yam was given for between N100, 000 and N120, 000
Anor Iyortyer who deals in tubers said “the price of yams depend on the grade. The highest grade of yams is between One Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira (N180,000) and Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200,000) per 100 tubers. You can also get at Sixty Thousand Naira but those are small yams.”
In Zaki Biam, the biggest yam market, the smallest size of yams is trading for between Fifteen Thousand Naira (N15, 000) and Twenty Thousand Naira (N20,000) per 100 tubers.
Vivian Akpaaku told The Voice that there was less harvest last year. She attributed the development to the period of “little dry season,” which was experienced.
Also, Brother Emmanuel Nyikwagh, farmer and middleman from Logo LGA, said “It has never been like this. There is less rain this year and less rain implies less harvest. And if you look at the rising food prices, there is every need to be worried.
“A bag of cassava chips is selling at about Thirty Thousand Naira, first time in the history of this state. It was between Four Thousand Five Hundred Naira and Five Thousand Naira last year.”
Among the Local Government Areas worse hit by herdsmen attacks are Guma, Logo, Makurdi, Gwer West, Kwande and Agatu. Those affected by communal conflict are Konshisha, Gwer East, as well as Katsina-Ala and Ukum that have come under the yoke of arm bandits.
The Member representing Katsina-Ala East State Constituency, Jonathan Agbidyeh, told The Voice in an interview that “We are expecting a very serious problem. We are expecting famine because nobody is going to the farm. I think it is only in parts of Michihe ward that people are going to the farm. And this is June/July. After July, I don’t think there will be serious farming activities in that area.
“Normally, yam harvest begins in August. So, there is no way people can go to farm and the resultant effect will be terrible. There may be wide spread hunger. Even now, there is hunger in that area,” he stated.
Commenting on the situation, a first class chief, Tor Sankera, Chief Abu Shuluwa said: “Insecurity generally, has affected agriculture production in the whole nation not just Sankera axis. Farmers are no longer going to the farm.
“There is going to be hunger next year; even this year. By this time, what the Tiv man used to eat is fruits. But there are no fruits, no rice because there is no rain in the first place. You can’t find Guinea corn, millet; cassava and whatever has rotten. And this insecurity is the major challenge, Shuluwa stated.
Worried by the impending hunger, a Catholic priest who is a humanitarian, Rev Fr Solomon Ukeyima is urging the people to go back to farm. With his #GoBackToFarm campaign, Ukeyima is calling on all able bodied young men in the state to farm to avert the “hunger that lies ahead and maintain” Benue’s “Food btasket status.”
Benue govt distributes agro-input
Meanwhile, the Benue State Government distributed agro-input to farmers across the 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
Performing the ceremony in Makurdi, Governor Samuel Ortom said the seedlings and crops were high yielding and drought tolerant that could meet international demands. He said it was part of the Growth Enhancement Support to small scale farmers to boost food production and provide raw materials for industries springing up in the State.
This is even as the Ortom government has slashed the price of fertilisers by 50 percent.
Ortom revealed that 141 trucks of fertiliser, an equivalent of 4, 230 metric tons of granulated inorganic fertilizer and five trucks of granulated organic fertiliser, an equivalent of 150 metric tons are available to Benue farmers for the 2021 cropping season.
Mrs Ortom donates casava, maize seedlings
Meanwhile, the Governor’s wife, through her foundation, Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF) has supported the vulnerable members of the Benue community, particularly, the displaced communities with improved cassava and maize seedlings to enhance crop production.
The desire of the Governor’s wife “is to support small holder farmers to boost food production and as well promote associated value chains in their various communities. The combined impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, rampant herdsmen attacks on rural communities and ethnic hostilities have worsened the vulnerabilities of small holder farmers in our State throwing up the strong likelihood of a hunger crises.”
Mrs Ortom said: “There is the urgent need for concerted actions to be taken by many spirited and concerned persons to support these farmers to revive their food production capacities. It is for this reason that ESLF has mobilised cassava and maize seedlings which we are here to donate as support to displaced persons among other needy rural farmers for planting even as this year’s planting season is still on.”