Professor Salihu Adamu Dadari, is a lecturer with the Department of Agronomy, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, he speaks on the market, agronomy and many issues affecting farming in Nigeria.
How would you assess farming activities in Nigeria this season?
So far, so good, I can see that lands that had not been cultivated are being tilled. Nigerians, including medical doctors, teachers and even politicians, now engage in farming.
But some people argue that many farmers pull out of the business in this season, on the grounds of crashing in farm produce price?
Honestly, many farmers are cultivating lands only out of failure to understand the trends in the global market. Some farmers changed from their former crops to something else. For instance, a maize farmer decides to go for soya beans. It’s not the issue of the crop/produce. You can abandon a certain crop and its price value might change. Farmers should endure with the crop they’re used to cultivating. Take for instance, those that have been cultivating pepper, it had no price value before; but this time around it’s the most valuable produce in the market. And should farmers let them go for it; because it has value? Its value may likely fall by next year.
The problem with people is that we’re too forgetful, global market is always dynamic; hence if it changes, it will mostly likely affect the Nigerian markets, too. We should understand that Nigeria’s economy can only grow, if we improve agriculture. As I used to say, take for example the former president of Botswana, Dr. Kamuzu Banda, when he was minister of Agriculture, whenever they are to plan a budget, he could cite/peg the prices of every farm produce after the harvesting period. Every farmer should select which crop they can cultivate for the next season. And the prices the government has tagged would be binding as law no one should trample upon. The agents of the government can go to the markets and wait until after every buyer buys their produce; the agents would then buy the remaining unsold produce.
The government should not let a farmer go home with unsold produce. They can buy the produce and store in its silos, so that no farmer is at a disadvantage or loss. And when the prices soar. It can release the produce it already stored and resell at affordable prices.
So, what do you think about food import forex restriction?
Government should not allow import of the produce that we can cultivate here in Nigeria – like rice, maize, beans and many others. Because if we import foodstuff from the foreign countries, we’re only growing their economy at our own expense; and we are providing jobs to their youth, again we bring our agriculture to its knees, which could jeopardize our national GDP.
We are still calling on the Nigerian authorities to give much focus and priority on agriculture and come up with ways of giving subsidies to farmers. There’s a need for Nigerians to embrace agriculture since we have vast and arable uncultivated lands. Our farmers should not be discouraged with the current fall in prices. What you have been cultivating, you should keep on cultivating, you can even add multiple cropping, don’t rely on a single crop.