bumper harvest fails

By Charly Agwam

Despite bumper harvest of food crops by farmers in Bauchi State, food scarcity accompanied by high prices has continued unabated in the state, raising concerns that consumers may be heading for a tough time with hunger, starvation, and malnutrition in the months ahead.

A survey by Arewa Voice indicates that prices of most food commodities are now beyond the reach of a vast number of Bauchi residents who are mostly civil servants and artisans.

For example, before harvest, a measure of locally-produced rice, which sold for N650 still sells for the same price or more at the popular Muda Lawal Market in Bauchi metropolis.

Other commodities like beans, corn, millet and yam are also relatively scarce in the market with high prices attached to them. Some buyers have expressed their disappointment at the high prices of foodstuff in the market. One of the bulk buyers, Inuwa Suleiman, who spoke to Arewa Voice, said that he came to the market with N30,000 but could only get few items because of their high cost.

“It is really exhausting. I left my house feeling like I had some money to purchase some food items but here I am sorely disappointed. The fact that it is harvest season didn’t even change anything. I had N30,000 when I arrived here (market) but I could only get few measures of rice, beans and other items in the bag. I have not bought all I needed but what is left in my pocket is this miserable N1, 560 which is as useless as having nothing,” he lamented, stretching his hand.

The major reason for the scarcity, according to an economist, Tunde Ibrahim, is inconsistent policies by government and its agencies, even as he noted that farmers were hoarding their farm produce to be able to respond to any shock that might threaten their purchasing power in the future.

He said: “If you look at what has been happening in the past six years or so, you’ll notice that Nigerians have been victims of various policies of government that have affected their income. From abrupt closing of borders to devaluing of naira, and the frequent increase in the price of our common patrimony which is petrol that we have in large deposits in this country, the government has dampened our trust in their ability to steer the nation in the right path.

“The truth is that the people are aware of this. Call them illiterate if you like, but they know what is going on because it directly affects them. Take for example, this petrol scarcity drama that is going on. If eventually, government increases the price of petrol, what will happen to the farmer who hurriedly sold all his goods in market? Of course, there will be inflation, his purchasing power will drop and that will make him struggle till another farming season. That is, if he ever recovers.”

Arewa Voice visited some food processing plants in Bauchi to assess the level of scarcity of some food items and their prices. In one of the facilities, a rice processing plant at Dungal village along Bauchi-Jos road, there was a handful of rice bags scattered on the ground with some idle workers.

One of the workers, who didn’t want his name mentioned, told our reporter that farmers were waiting for the price of rice to increase before they bring out their goods for sale. “As you can see, there are only few bags here for processing. And even these ones are not for sale. They are waiting for a time when the price will go up so that they can sell at higher prices. Last year, we worked overnight here but see how less busy we are now. Nobody wants to bring their goods for processing. That’s why rice is still expensive in the market.”

However, in an effort to tackle food shortage, the Federal Government, some days ago, said that it was considering rolling out the ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ initiative to encourage the establishment of urban farms and small home gardens across the country.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the initiative would be undertaken in collaboration with states under the supervision of the National Economic Council and the National Council on Nutrition as part of efforts to address food shortage and malnutrition.

“States and the FGN will promote what the convener has described as ‘Operation Feed Yourself’. This is more of the establishment of urban farms and homestead gardens. This is simply something that we think should be a mass appeal to citizens in the states, and the encouragement we can give them so that individuals and schools develop their own farms or homestead gardens,” he said.

“This obviously not only helps individuals and families but the excess can be sold to others and generally improve food security. The establishment of agribusiness investment hubs or farm settlements or farm estates or any variety of those kinds of integrated farming arrangements will improve food and nutrition security.

“What we are recommending is the sort of model that Oyo State has or any of the variety that states have. That sort is obviously recommended because of the way that it is structured and the obviously good result that they have been getting.”

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