Food inflation: Dry season farming to the rescue?

Dry season farming comes with lots of challenges and same state government says they are working out logistics to address them.

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Food inflation, Dry season farming to the rescue?, Chijioke OkoronkwoBy Chijioke Okoronkwo

By most accounts, food inflation is a global challenge that bites harder in poor and developing countries.

In Nigeria, experts say reason for the worrying level of food inflation is not farfetched the removal of fuel subsidy and floating of the exchange rate come top even as the government makes efforts to address the situation.

Nigerians experienced food price hike in October, says NBS

Perceptive analysts have tried to establish the nexus between the twin challenge of food inflation and food insecurity and their mutual inclusivity

According to them, same variables—high cost of fuel, conflicts, drought, climate change, insecurity, inter alia—must be tackled headlong while dry season farming needs to be ramped up.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that food inflation rate in October 2023 was 31.52 per cent on a year-on-year basis, 7.80 per cents points when higher compared to October, 2022 records which stood at 23.72 per cent.

To this end, governments at all levels are exploring the potentialities in dry season farming with a view to reaping bountifully therefrom.

Sen. Abubakar Kyari, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, said the Federal Government was targeting to increase wheat production by over 70, 000 hectares across the nation’s wheat production zones through via dry season farming.

According to Kyari, a yield of 875,000 metric tonnes is expected for the nation’s food reserve.

Kyari listed the ministry’s focal areas which hinges on integration, sustainability, and resilience to its challenges.

He said that these spanned the immediate, short, medium and long term.

“The most pressing actions we are currently handling is preparation for the next dry-season farming beginning from November.

“To this end, some preparatory activities have been carried out and many others are at the advanced stage’’, he said at a while marshaling out the way forward for the nation’s agriculture sector at a news conference.

He further said this included certification of available planting materials for some food security crops in readiness for dry-season farming; aggressive promotion and preparations for dry season farming.

“Also, the implementation of the dry season wheat production starting in November as part of the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro Pocket (NAGS-AP), projects funded by the African Development Bank.

“Under this scheme, the target is to produce wheat over a 70, 000 hectares across the wheat production zone of the country.

“This is with an expected yield of 875,000 metric tonnes for our food reserve; blending of appropriate fertilizers to support this year’s dry season farming.

“While making provisions for next year farming season well in advance; providing Train-the-Trainer for extension agents involved in dry season farming. This will be in collaboration with wheat producing states and other partners such as flour mills’’, he said.

The minister further said that arrangements were also at advanced stage for dry season farming of rice, maize and other horticultural crops.

“The most pressing actions we are currently handling is preparation for the next dry-season farming beginning from November 2023,” he said.

He said that the ministry would hold the National Agriculture and Food Security Summit in November, to bring all stakeholders together for development of National Action Plan for Food Security.

Prof. Joseph Utse, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, said the Federal Government would  cultivate 500,000 hectares of irrigable land for dry season farming as part of efforts to boost food security in the country.

Utse called for the cooperation of state governments and communities to make land available to the 12 basin authorities across the federation, to boost food production.

At the sub-national levels, conscious efforts are also underway.

Some state governments have taken up the challenge of boosting food sufficiency through dry season farming.

Consequently, Alhaji Musa Bosso, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development in Niger, said that the state government would mobilise 250,000 farmers to engage in mechanised agriculture during the upcoming dry season.

He said it would be done under the government policy of allocating 10,000 hectares of land to farmers in each of the 25 local government areas of the state for wet and dry season farming.

“This is another way of increasing food production; creating jobs and wealth among our people; which will also ensure food security for the state and the nation,’’ he said.

According to him, the ministry is ready for the upcoming dry season farming, adding that the ministry has been selling improved seeds, pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser to farmers.

Bosso also said the government planned to utilise water from Kainji, Shiroro, Jebba and Zungeru hydro dams for dry season farming.

Dry season farming comes with lots of challenges and same state government says they are working out logistics to address them.

In Borno, Gov. Babagana Zulum has deployed 313 tractors to assist farmers in rural areas across the state alongside 100 trucks of fertiliser, sold at a subsidized rate of 25 per cent discount.

Zulum also announced the procurement of 471 ploughs and harrows to be used by the tractors for all-season farming.

The governor said the 313 tractors deployed under the system – one each to the 313 wards in the state – would be rendering free services to farmers who, however, would contribute in fueling them.

In Yobe, the future even looks more promising.

The state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Ali Mustapha, said the government had provided 3,000 metric tonnes of fertilisers and agro chemicals for irrigation farming.

“We distributed up to 3,000 metric tonnes in Bursari, Bade, Jakusko, Fika, Gulani and Geidam Local Government Areas.

“This is the initiative of Gov. Mai Mala Buni to provide necessary materials for irrigation farming to areas designed for the scheme,” he said.

In Adamawa, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Prof. David Jatau, said the government was committed to irrigation farming, considering the delay in rainfall recorded this rainy season and the latest flood caused by released of excess water from Lagdo Dam which affected farmlands.

“The only option left to us now is to take advantage of the opportunity given by government to support dry-season farmers with inputs, including seeds, fertilizers and agro chemicals at subsidised rates,” he said.

Jatau urged the people to key into dry- season farming, particularly rice, wheat and maize productions.

Deserving no less attention, Mrs Adegbemisola Fayoyin, the Permanent Secretary of Osun Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, said the state would soon commence distribution of seedlings, fertilisers and other inputs ahead of dry season farming.

Fayoyin said the state government had started making preparations for dry season farming and would roll out plans immediately after the rainy season.

“We are waiting for a nod from the state government in the areas of funds and other logistics for the dry season farming.

“We are also waiting for the rainy season to end so that we can commence full preparation for the dry season farming.

“The ministry is also awaiting some support from the state government in the area of funds so we can hit the ground running.

“Our targets are mostly poor women farmers; we want them to get seedlings and other farm inputs for dry season farming,’’ she said.

More so, in Ekiti, Gov. Biodun Oyebanji recently disclosed his government’s plans to improve agricultural productivity through provision of improved seed and seedlings, fertiliser and enhanced extension services to guarantee food security in the state.

Oyebanji said the plans also included expansion of rural and feeder roads to boost the distribution of agricultural produce to both existing and new markets, and to deepen agricultural value-chain.

Mr Abayomi Monilari, President, Ondo State Farmers Congress, said that it had become imperative for all farmers in the state to prepare themselves for the dry season rather than relying on the government.

Stakeholders are of the view that ramping up dry season farming will bridge the gap between food supply and demand; and in multiplier effect, force down the prices of food.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)