…why government must intervene
The activities of middlemen have continued to raise concern among agricultural stakeholders in the country.
Dr Jacob Mboya Wapa of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Abuja, painted the picture of the consequences of government leaving farmers and consumers in the hands of middlemen in the country.
“Generally in agricultural production, I fear these middlemen. They will cheat the producers and the consumers, it is very common and if you say you will produce and market the product yourself, they will block and frustrate you. They will ask you to register with them first. They are just like a mafia group and if you are not strong and known, they will frustrate you.
“Dealing with them in agricultural value chain has been a serious problem because you, the producer, will suffer as they will cheat you in selling the produce which they will take to the consumers and cheat them also.Yet it is not possible for the smallholder producers to cut off the middlemen and that has become acceptable in Nigeria,” he said.
Collaborating the view of the expert, some grains farmers at the venue said that the cost of producing maize, beans and have gone up in the last few years and at the time of harvest, middlemen buy maize for example at N7, 000(100kg) and beans at N15, 000 (50kg) from them then sell later to consumers at N12, 000(100kg) or more at certain places while beans at more than N30, 000 at certain places later in the year.
A similar view was expressed by wheat and ginger farmers. Last week wheat farmers in kano, sokoto accused middlemen of sabotaging their effort buying wheat at N15, 000 which is far below the cost of production.
Also some ginger farmers in Kaduna while speaking with Daily Trust on a different forum pointed finger at middlemen who they said connived to buy ginger at a price that is far below the cost of production then sell at good prices later to the end users.
Dr Wapa recalled that in the early 70s and 80s there was the agricultural produce board or the grains board set up by government which monitored the marketing of agricultural produce.The boards were responsible for regulating prices as well as demand and supply, he saidlamenting that “we don’t have it today.”
He also expressed worry that “government has removed its hands completely and left everything in the hands of middlemen and farmers.”
He further stressed that before now, “agricultural produce was sold measured on a scale.“You may have 100kg of maize or any grain and when it is put on the scale it weighs differently because of the difference in quality.
“If government can establish and go by that system,itwill put smile on the faces of farmers and even the consumers,” he noted.
For him, if government takes such action, it can regulate prices, supply and demand for agricultural produce.