No input for farmers as planting season beckons

Rural farmers

• Govt Interventions Getting Into Wrong Hands
The 2018 farming season is around the corner. But it looks bleak, as farmers are confronted by many challenges, such as lack of access to improved seedlings, high cost of fertilizer and other key farm input.

Despite several commitments by the Federal Government to support farmers, The Guardian confirmed that little or nothing has been done, as farmers continue to buy the 50 kg size of fertilizer at N10,000, as against the N5,500 subsidised rate.

Feelers from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture indicate that a good number of government’s intervention and support for farmers fall into the wrong hands; they are usually cornered by non-farmers, who act as middlemen and sell to the farmers at market rate.

There are also reports that fertilizer produced by the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative with support of the Fertilizer Producers and Supplier Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) and meant to be sold for N5,500 to farmers are usually re-bagged and sold at the market rate of N10,000.

A top ministry official who confirmed the development recently said: “Merely looking at some of the so-called farmers who come to the ministry, it is very obvious that they are not real farmers. But there is little we can do because we have been unable to get accurate data on our farmers.”

President of the Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation of Nigeria (SWOFON), Mary Afan, who also confirmed the development, noted that a sack of sprayer that is sold at the ministry between N7,000 and N9,000 is bought by the middlemen and re-sold at the community level for N19,000.

“When there is a budget for agriculture, when it comes to sharing of input, we don’t see the input. It’s mostly given to the men. In the past administration, we had the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES), where women were able to access three bags of fertilizer. And even at that level, it was small, but this year we didn’t see anything. We are able to buy fertilizer at the cost of N11,000 and that is just a 50kg bag. It’s too expensive.”

It was learnt that the seed subsector, being one of the most important part of food production, has not received the attention it deserves, giving rise to the circulation of adulterated seeds. This eventually translates to increase in food prices.

Indeed, farmers are finding it difficult to access improved seeds because of lack of funds and poor sensitisation. Experts are of the opinion that government needs to reform its extension service and also provide adequate funding for the service to ensure that farmers use improved seeds.

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