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Farmers, merchants in distress as prices of grains slump further

  • …famers switching to cash crops

As harvest approaches for most of the food crops, their prices in the markets across the country are further weakened, leaving most of the farmers and merchants who stored such grains in anticipation of premium prices to languish in pain.

Aisha Mohammed trades in maize, millet, sorghum, soybeans and egusi (melon), something she has been doing for over a decade. Last week, she said maize further slumped to N6,000 (100kg) while soybeans, which she bought at N33,000 (110kg bag ) in one of the markets in Taraba, fell to N20,000 in Mada Station market in Nasarawa State.

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Mrs. Mohammed said those who stored maize were licking their wounds as it is even difficult to recoup the money put in it. She added that buyers are now trading with caution.

In Nasarawa State, those who harvested melon early enough got N85,000 per 120Kg bag, but that has now collapsed to N20,000 and may likely slump further as more harvests hit the market.

Reports from other states showed that despite the end of its supposed glut period, the price of beans is still very low as this is the case in Katsina local markets.

The months of May/June were considered the peak period of beans and other grains supply in local markets, considering how farmers were seriously in demand for cash to begin their farming activities.

According to the farmers, even at that period, a 100kg bag of good quality beans was not sold less than N20,000 last year and it rose to N30,000 thereafter; but up to the time of filling this report, a bag of best quality beans was not more than N14,000 at Dandume market.

Alhaji Abdullah Aminu, a farmer and businessman, said the development had seriously affected the economy of many merchants, especially those that stored the produce in expectation to maximise profit at this period.

“During its harvest period, the price started on a good note because there was a time I bought some of my stored beans at N18,000, but now the best we can sell it is N14,000,” said Alhaji Abdullah.

He added that a large percentage of the hoarded beans were fast destroying as they are attracting pest due to long term storage.

“Only those who used the deadly pesticides could have their produce free from pest by now, but those who used just polythene bags are now battling with the pests that are fast destroying the produce in stores,” he added.

He further said the ugly incident had badly affected the economy of many local farmers and dealers.

Another dealer, Mallam Bilya Sani, said he lost over N600,000 from the beans he stored from harvest period to this time.

“I bought 170 bags at a little over N17,000 each, which totalled N3,000,000 in January. Last week, I sold the produce at the rate of N14,000 per 100kg bag. You can imagine the loss,” he said.

He added that both the local farmers and the dealers could not actually say the cause of the poor price of beans this year, but there were unconfirmed insinuations that some markets in the country are being flooded with imported beans.

Our correspondent discovered that from Dandume, Kafur, Bakori and Funtua markets, the price of beans as at last Friday started from N7,000 to N14,000, depending on its quality, variety and the extent of its damage by pests.

A farmer at Kokabo village in Bakori Local Government Area, Aminu Musa, said there was no alternative to them than to sell the produce as the market determined.

“We need resources for this farming season and the only asset we have is the farm produce, therefore, we can’t fold our arms just because the price is poor.  One has to deal with the situation, especially that everyone knows how beans was massively cultivated last year, and God being very kind, there was a bumper harvest,’’ said Aminu Musa.

He further expressed hope that considering how the majority of farmers cultivate rice, soybeans and cotton this season, there is  the tendency for the farmers to smile to the bank in the forthcoming harvest period.

Few days ago, there was a report of how low prices of food crops being experienced this year was forcing farmers in Bauchi State to look for better alternatives.

The agency reported “that a lot of farmers have either switched from cultivation of food to cash crops, or reduced the size of their farmlands following the loss they incurred, occasioned by price instability.”

They worried that having spent a lot of resources on farm inputs and labour last year, prices of food crops never went beyond what obtained during the harvest period, thereby making it difficult to recoup what they spent, let alone making gains.

The farmers listed maize, sorghum, beans and rice as the items which prices had remained static since the beginning of this year.

They said most of them had now shifted to cultivating soya beans and sesame seeds, which are cash crops that often appreciate in value.

Malam Hassan Madaki,  the chairman of a farmers’ cooperative society in Kajitu village in the outskirts of Bauchi metropolis, told NAN that of the about 100 registered farmers in his organisation, over 50 of them had reduced the size of their farmlands, and 40 others shifted from the cultivation of food to cash crops.

“Last year, around this time, prices of 80kg bags of maize, sorghum, beans and rice were N12,000, N13,000, N24,000 and N36,000. As I speak to you today, 80kg bags of maize, sorghum, beans and rice cost N5,000, N6,000, N8,000 and N24,000. This is as against the current prices of soyabeans and sesame seed, which cost N17,000 and N30,000 respectively,” he said.

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