NIGERIA SET TO HAVE A BUMPER HARVEST
By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta
The pace and volume of the rains this wet season favour all the crops under cultivation across the farming belts of Nigeria. This comment is based on my own eyewitness observation. Tracking the progress of the wet season annually has become a habit for me.
Although the 2019 rainy season started haltingly, and even had a short drought period during which some crops withered, the return of the rains have cleared all doubts that Africa’s largest democracy is set to witness yet another bumper harvest – the fifth in a row. One of the outcomes could be further tumbling of food prices.
The agricultural sector in the country enjoys a degree of favoured status among the country’s elite, which saw to the appropriate funding required to match the efforts of the largely peasant farmers, thus raising their productivity and contributing to the obvious success of the Government’s policy to diversify the economy away from the country’s Oil and Gas sector.
In the country’s grains belt this writer visited in Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina states it is clearly obvious that the crops are doing well – millet heads are flowering, maize has reached a level beyond failure, groundnuts thriving, sesame seeds plants dot the landscape beautifully; hundreds of young girls and women were spotted in the Kura and Dakasoye areas of Kano state harvesting paddy rice from irrigated farms. Others were clearing or ploughing their plots for the next round of cropping.
The cost of chemical fertilisers, which ranged from N5, 500 to a maximum of N9, 500, depending on the brand and quality, did not deter farmers from working most of the farms, with very few fields left fallow. The back to the farm mantra of the government of the day is paying off.
I have seen newly harvested early cow pea, or white beans, spread on the shoulders of paved highways, as is common practice in the country, to sun-dry it before de-podding and taking it home for consumption, storage or to the market for sale.
By the time the 2019 wet season harvests are concluded in the next three and a half months or so for all crops, Nigeria would have recorded the fifth consecutive bumper harvests, which have contributed in virtually weaning the country off foreign rice, drastically reduced food imports and definitely deepened food security for the 200 million population.
The advantages of such successful harvests include greater availability of raw materials for agro-processors, both local and multinationals. They crush maize into malt, flour, and grits and in the process employ thousands of Nigerians along the value chains of several crops. The processors pay taxes that contribute in badly-needed development projects, including items as basic as potable water to rural communities.
Nigeria, which has over 90 million hectares of arable land and a tradition of agricultural practice that in the past was the main foreign exchange earner for the country, is self sufficient in the main staples of the different sections of its heterogeneous population. The key staples are cassava, millets, sorghum, yam, coco yam, maize, sweet potato and Irish potato.
The country is also self-sufficient in vegetables, fruits and nuts; although lots of Nigerians love to eat exotic fruits imported from South Africa, as a show of their social standing and high-class taste typical of the rich.
Just a few weeks back, the Central Bank of Nigeria extended its interventions in the agricultural sector to include the revival and expansion of cotton production, palm oil restoration – based on the success of its Anchors Borrowers Scheme that boosted rice production and eliminated the need to import rice by 98 per cent, although smuggled foreign rice is still available in open markets.
In view of the expected bumper harvest, more warehouses are sprouting in the grains production areas and more investors are starting up food processing plants, where value is added on the raw produce.