The farmers lamented that though they have since planted rice for the season, the fear of inadequate supply of fertilizer, lack of access roads to their farms to evacuate the products from their irrigation farms, high cost of agro-chemicals, the danger of possible birds and insects invasion of farmlands and other problems that also effect the two seasons production and sales, are giving them sleepless nights.
Argungu, which is known for its annual international fishing festival, is also one of the major multiple seasons rice cropping community, where rice is produced in commercial quantity for sale within Nigeria and export to countries like China and Niger Republic.
When Daily Trust visited the rice farmlands in Argungu, it was noticed that a lot of activities were going on, ranging from the threshing of the rice produced through irrigation, which is done on the ground using sticks, inevitably mixing it with sand which is then bagged and moved to either warehouses or markets, while other farmers have started planting for the rainy season.
One of the rice farmers, Alhaji Sani Danmanga, who spoke to our reporter said he has since finished with the produce of his irrigation farm, and also sold 20,000 bags of rice from his dry season harvest to a Chinese company, while 27, 000 bags were purchased by the state SURE-P.
He said 13 trucks containing 400 bags each were also sold by other farmers in the area from this year’s dry season harvest to an indigenous company which re-processed, re-bagged and supplied same to many state governments in the country, saying though there is this channel of selling rice by the farmers in the area, the price is not attractive compared to the high cost of fertilizer in the open market.
He lamented the inadequate distribution of government subsidized fertilizer, access road to transport the farm produce and lack of facilities to enhance irrigation farming in the area such as water channels that will convey water to the farms, adding, “each member of the farmer’s association gets two bags of fertilizer and 50 kilogrammes of seeds. As a matter of fact, there are about 202 registered farmers groups which have been receiving assistance from government. Each group has between 18 and 30 members including the 57 large scale farmers in Argungu. That is the much assistance we have received from the state and federal governments this year,” he said.
Another farmer, Malam Lawal Usman Argungu, who said he has been into multiple season cropping for over 11 years, said he has created job opportunities for youth in the area, adding, “those labourers you see over there (pointing to a group of people processing rice in the farm), work every day in threshing and bagging of rice in my farm and those of others.
“I produce over 100 bags of rice during the dry season and about 40 to 45 bags of rice in the wet season due to flood which didn’t allow me to cultivate some of my other farms. We did all that alone without any assistance from government. I am therefore appealing to government to encourage farmers by providing fertilizer and other incentives to boost our production,” he said.
He said businessmen who come from Sokoto, Kano and some parts of Niger Republic to buy rice from the farmers buy at the rate of N6,500 per bag of 50 kilogrammes. He said rice farmers in the area have not been able to meet the demand of buyers because production is limited to the farmlands the fertilizer and inputs the farmers can afford.
One of the major rice farmers in the area and custodian of the Argungu fishing festival river (Sarkin Ruwan Argungu), Alhaji Hussaini Makwashi said apart from rice; he is also into millet, corn and beans farming. He said he cultivates between 35 and 40 bags in the dry season and over 100 in the wet season and wondered what the two bags of fertilizer government distributes to farmers would do for him.
“Only few farmers got one bag each from the government subsidized fertilizer at the cost of between N1,700 to N1,800 per bag for the two farming seasons. We have no choice than to source for the balance in the open market that cost over N5,000 per bag. Majority of the farmers could not even get the one bag. Our other challenges are the insects, birds and rats that usually destroy our crop. Last year there was flood and government has not been able to assist us in that area too,” he said.Another rice farmer, Alhaji Dauda Brigadiya said rice farming is capital intensive and time consuming because of the frequent attention it requires, adding, “it cost me over N40,000 to pay labourers in the rice farm and about half of that in cultivating other crops.
“So far, it is only the federal government that is able to provide farmers in the state with fertilizer. We are still expecting the state government to give us the fertilizer now that wet season farming has started in earnest because just yesterday, I had no choice than to buy a bag of fertilizer at the cost of N5,800.
“During the last dry season, some Chinese businessmen came and bought large quantity of rice from us at N7,000 per bag, Kebbi State government bought at N6,500 per bag while at the open market, a bag is sold at N6,000. I reserved other crops such as millet for my family consumption. But I sold out my beans and the dried beans leaves as animal feed in the middle of the rainy season,” he said.
Another farmer, Isah Katayi said government officials that visited their farms for inspection during the dry season farming promised to assist them with fertilizer when they realized how they were suffering as a result of inadequate fertilizer but did not return to redeem their pledge, adding, “flooding from the release of excess water from Bakolori and Goronyo dams in Zamfara and Sokoto states sometimes also destroys our dry season farmlands,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed Idris state chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), said the major problem affecting the production of rice in the state is that assistance from the state does not get to the farmers.
According to the chairman, “the association complained that in 2011 alone, 330 trucks of fertilizer meant for Kebbi rice farmers got missing while 62 trucks were also missing in 2012. Nevertheless, the state government has incorporated All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) to be part of the distribution of fertilizer; and in 2013 the distribution of fertilizer is to be done by the local government.”
He said each polling unit in major rice producing areas such as Argungu, Suru, Birnin Kebbi and Ngaski will get 60 bags of fertilizer for distribution to farmers, adding that if government can increase its supply of subsidized fertilizer, seeds and other inputs to the farmers to up to 80 percent of their total demand, Nigeria may not require importing rice from anywhere. He also advocated the setting up of standard rice milling machines at strategic places in the country to improve the quality of rice production.
The AFAN chairman said the price of rice appreciated when the state SURE-P steering committee offered to buy 50 kilogrammes bag at N6,500 as against the N5,500 per bag that Labana rice mill used to buy while individuals bought for as low as N5,000 per bag.
The Kebbi State Commissioner for Agriculture, Sani Kanya, when contacted on phone said 540 trucks of fertilizer have been procured for distribution to 162,000 registered farmers at 35 designated centres in the state.
“I am right now attending an agricultural programme in Abeokuta and I want to assure you that government has made procurement of fertilizer a priority and we are currently operating the GES programme of fertilizer distribution of two bags to a farmer. Therefore, the minister of agriculture will soon come to Kebbi to launch the sales of the 540 trucks to farmers while seeds will continue to be distributed free to farmers.
“We also pay complementary hours to complement the federal government’s deployment of aircraft to regularly spray affected farmlands invaded by Quail birds. We have also procured agro-chemicals for distribution to insects infected farms in the state,” Kanya said.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture office in Kebbi State said that 150,000 farmers were registered for agric support programme during the dry season farming in the state. State Coordinator of the ministry, Mr. Kevin Tekpat, said the registered farmers were allocated two bags of fertilizer each for a hectare and 50 kilogrammes of improved variety of rice seeds per hectare after certification of the farmers capability.
He added that the ministry has established one-stop-agro centre at Argungu where farmers would receive credible agro-allied materials to enhance crop production, adding, “the centre was established to reduce dangers associated with buying agrochemicals or seeds that are substandard. Credible agro-dealers have been commissioned to make provisions for the centre. The centre was a pilot scheme for the federal government in collaboration with the state.”