Chief Sylvanus Ejezie, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Delta Chapter, has predicted food shortfall this year while urging government’s intervention to check it.
Ejezie made the prediction in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Asaba.
He said that the current indices seemed not to support the process of food production as farmers in the state were going through herculean and harrowing experience in securing inputs for the year’s farming season.
He said that even the weather has defied the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) prediction of early rainfall, such that the farmers are skeptical to begin the year’s farming process due to the scorching heat from the sun.
He said that the burden of looking for cash (naira crunch) to buy inputs from the locals who do not have bank accounts is also a major challenge.
“As we speak, we are waiting for the heavy rains to come before we begin the land preparation for rice cultivation.
“No meaningful rainfall in Delta. We are looking towards April and May when heavy rains will fall and wet the ground before we can start the process of planting our rice.
“For now, our farmers are warming up, we are buying chemicals and other inputs to get ready for planting when the rains come.
“So, we are waiting and when the rain falls, we shall apply herbicides and start ploughing and harrowing of the soil but for now, the weather is still very hot here,” he said.
According to Ejezie, “it is challenging to buy our inputs, particularly now with the cashless policy in place.
“As an association, we buy inputs in bulk. And due to scarcity of cash, we do transfer to our customers but the network has not been friendly, it is often difficult to connect.
“Most times we have failed transactions that demand we should wait for 14 working days to rectify and complete such transactions at the bank.
“Besides, as farmers, we do not have money to feed our families now, we even had to pay N4,000 to get N10,000 cash from the POS vendors to survive.
“In fact, farmers are in real trouble now that it will be difficult for most of us to buy inputs for the year’s farming season if government fails to give support now.
“With all the challenges facing farmers now, there is no doubt that food production would drop and prices most likely will rise above what we currently experience before the end of the year.”
He, however, advised farmers to endeavour to produce what their families could eat and possibly enough to support their neighbours.
“The rain is delayed but we are discussing to ensure that farmers target April/May to plant their rice and harvest before August to beat the NiMet predicted flooding later this year.
“If you consider the cost of diesel to power tractors, cost of buying naira and rising cost of agricultural inputs, labour and others, these no doubt will add to the cost of production and by implication will reduce output and cause prices of produce to rise.
“My sincere opinion is that we are not ready for the cashless policy as many rural farmers, particularly those who sell seedlings, do not have bank account, they need cash,” Ejezie said.