By Bayo Sekoni
Ibadan, Oct. 23, 2020 Nigerians are still reacting to the concession of Federal Government silos nationwide for strategic grains reserve, with some South -West agriculture stakeholders calling for a review of the policy to include traditional silos for small scale farmers.
One of the major stakeholders who is also Ogun State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Adeola Odedina, advised farmers to look into traditional silos as an alternative to government owned ones.
Odedina, while speaking with journalists disclosed that the state has eight traditional farm estate settlements which have functioning silos for storage.
He said that the lockdown period made the state realise that food security and food storage at all levels is very important, just as the nation’s territorial security.
The commissioner declares that boosting food security and making sure there is excess produce to store should be accorded top priority by government at all levels.
Odedina said it was the realisation of this which made the Ogun State government engage farmers by empowering them with knowledge and technology.
He said the empowerment programme is to help them know how they can store food at their farm level, smallholder level, and large scale level.
“Our strategy is to make sure that the traditional silos come alive, so that farmers in the farm estates or other farmers around the farm settlements can be supported with technology and aggregation in the value chain coordination, so that their excess products can go into the silos.
“Government should look into the traditional facility that has been abandoned, so that they can contribute to storage and food security.
“Storage is about infrastructure, and when infrastructure is put in place in this traditional farm settlement, fresh produce, which needs infrastructure like freezing or drying, would be processed and stored appropriately without being damaged,” Odedina explained.
He said that most smallholder farmers barely use silos or warehouse because they produce in small quantities and may not have a need for storage.
Odedina however urged them to get appropriate low cost storage facilities that can fit into their level of operation.
Speaking on whether farmers in the state receive adequate farm inputs, the commissioner affirmed that his ministry “stand for farmers support and investment”.
He said that government has been supporting farmers by providing farmers with inputs, lands, loans through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and assisting them in getting markets for their farm produce.
Odedina added that apart from input support, the state government through the Ogun State Agricultural Development Programme organises free trainings for farmers.
“We are taking advantage of huge investment in agriculture and people are demanding huge sources of raw materials.
“We also provide our farmers with enabling environment, whereby we do demonstrations for the farmers so that they can see how it is being done, in order to get yield,” he said
The commissioner said since the beginning of the CBN’ Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) in the state, the state has implemented a responsible and exemplary participation.
He said that with the programme, the state has assisted farmers in getting land, clearing lands, and linking farmers with offtakers.
Odedina disclosed that through the ABP, within a year, the state has linked no fewer than 5,000 cassava farmers and 2,000 rice farmers with offtakers without leaving other value chains like cotton and maize, untouched.
According to him, with the success of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, Gov. Dapo Abiodun has set an agenda for agriculture just as “food security is under control in the state”.
In a similar vein, Mr. Emmanuel Giwa, former Chairman, AFAN, Ondo State, said the silo located in Akure is not beneficial to most farmers in the state.
Giwa argued that grains are not produced in commercial quantity in southern part of Nigeria when compared to the north.
“We have more of subsistent farmers here in the South-West region as compared to the Northern region of the country where they practice more of mechanised farming,” he said.
Giwa further explained that although authorities in charge of the silos have not restricted subsistent farmers from using the facility, the yield of small time farmers during harvest is too small to store in the silo.
Some stakeholders are also calling for the participation of states, local governments, and private sector players including farmers congress and cooperative societies in the provision of silos.
While speaking with NAN, they assert that the silos would have made a difference in the country in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus and subsequent lockdown.
According to them, if the country had adequately stored excess harvest recorded in the past in the silos, it would have made positive impact during the lockdown.
The Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Oyo State, Mr John Olateru, says the concession of the national grains reserve silos to private companies is a big mistake by the government.
“The silos are now being used to mop up grains from the market and manipulate the price of foodstuffs.
“These silos are better used for its original intention, which is for grains strategic reserve, that is, governments warehouse grains at the time of excess, and release same at the time of scarcity.
“Now, there is scarcity, the government has little or nothing in their reserves to mitigate the challenges,” Olateru said.
According to him, the solution is that the government should bring back the commodity exchange board.
“The exchange board is in a position to know what is being produced by farmers, what the consumers’ needs are, and know if we have excess for export or need to import,” he said.
Also, Prof. Olubunmi Omotesho, of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, University of Ilorin, says that only one -third of agricultural output produced in Nigeria reaches the markets.
Omotesho explained that this is as a result of inadequate access to markets which are often under – capitalised and inefficient.
According to him, farmers are consigned to sell their products in the local or surrounding markets with little opportunity to make good profits from their labour.
Omotesho observed that, on the issue of utilization of silos, Nigerian farmers especially small scale farmers are usually in the dark and seldom feel the impact of agricultural innovations.
“This is neither because they are lazy nor bereft of ideas; rather it is either because they have no access to such vital information or because it is poorly disseminated,” he said.
The expert in Agricultural Economics said that the small scale farmers in Nigeria continue to face the urban-biased development process which distorts economic incentives, yielding highly dualistic outcomes.
He observed that this slows sectoral and aggregate growth rates and promotes non-equitable distribution of resources.
In the same vein, Dr Emmanuel Moyinjesu, a Chief lecturer, Department of Agronomy, College of Agriculture, Akure, Ondo State, told NAN that the silos have not achieved the objectives of the Federal Government.
“Unfortunately the objectives of silos are still yet to be achieved because state and local government are not complementing the Federal Government’s efforts.
“So, there is need for review of the policy, need for a better approach,” Moyinjesu said.
The lecturer, who said that the silos would have been useful especially during the COVID -19 lockdown, advised that it should not be a Federal Government affair alone.
According to him, there should be private investors to invest in building more silos in the country to save food products.
“Either during COVID-19 or not, it is a very useful agricultural technology that must be embraced by the government, private sector, farmers congress and commodity organisations.
“Also, private and public sectors must build more warehouses to complement the silos in the country whereby other products could be kept and it will enhance our export potentials,” Moyinjesu said.
Mr Martins Donatus, a farmer in Oba Ile, Akure North Local Government Area of the state, said that the silo located in the state is not functioning as expected.
“It is not serving the purpose for which it was built.
“It was aimed at preventing wastage during bumper harvest and we know that one of the problems of agriculture in Nigeria is inability to store farm produce,” Donatus said.
He added that if the silos are well equipped and optimally used, there will be food security.
According to Donatus, many farmers are not aware of the existence of the silos and its importance to them.
“There should be public enlightenment concerning the usage of the silos because many farmers are not even aware.
“If this can be efficiently used, government can build more to ensure food sufficiency,” he stated.
Donatus appealed to the Federal Government to set up a technical committee that will oversee the utilisation of the silo for effective use.
However, the former Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Oyo State, Mr Victor Korede, commended the Federal Government‘s decision to concession 30 silos across the country to private companies.
“The concessionaries are good for managing silos in some cases because the storage will serve as a solid reserve in times of plenty and a buffer in deficient times like these.
“However, issues of food security is very sensitive and important to any meaningful government, hence, there should be a good watch on policy implementation on same,” Korede said.
He also lauded the government for initiating the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme to assist farmers to improve their productivity, through provisions to finance farming inputs and extension services.
Korede said that the programme should be sustained, improved upon by the day, and expanded to cover all commodities.
On whether the farmers are receiving adequate farm inputs, he said that the government has done excellently in policy formulation, especially the Anchor Borrowers Programme, but there are other factors serving as constraints.
“There are other factors affecting small holder farmers such as unaffordable fertilizer and other inputs, non -access to technology, climate change, Fulani herdsmen attacks, among others.
“Also the incidents of flooding in farms in different parts of the country had affected storage of grains as there was challenge of poor harvest of produce across all commodities,’’ Korede said.