Despite Federal Government’s claim that food production has increased across the country, the 2017 wet season National Agricultural Performance Survey report revealed otherwise.
Indeed, the study highlighted challenges that affected food production during the 2017 wet season farming to include: climate change, absence of government input support, insecurity, kidnapping and poor support for agricultural extension.
The study carried out by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, domiciled at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, noted that the constraints affected all the subsector of agriculture including crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture, and agro forestry value chain.
The study, which was launched in Abuja by the Minister of State Agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, noted that although there was increase in land area for food production, but this only resulted in 35 per cent increase in livestock and aquaculture.
While presenting the report in Abuja, the Executive Director, NAERLS, Prof. Mohammed Othman, lamented that the level of mechanisation in Nigeria is still very low, as over 34 states are unable to access tractor services in 2017, due to high cost of hiring services.
Besides not buying tractors for farmers, Othman said the survey indicated that 28 states could not access tractor services for their wet season farming due to unavailability, resulting into high cost of land clearing activities.
The report identified maize as the most cultivated crop in Nigeria, accounting for 5,960,920 hectares, producing 10, 813,980 metric tonnes (MT) compared to 12,107,580MT in 2016, representing a 11.96 per cent increase in national total output.
However, the minister blamed NAERLS for withholding the research results of the survey, which has been conducted annually for the past 29 years, saying that the report ought to serve as a planning tool for farmers, investors and other relevant stakeholders.
He said: “We are very sad that for the past 29 years, we have always produced this type of document done with painstaking survey conducted across the country, but never formally presented to the public. Any research conducted but not presented to the public, as far as I’m concerned, will not be able to achieve the purpose for which it was conducted.
“You can imagine that for 29 years, this very highly respected institute, domiciled in ABU, has been producing this survey, but never formally presented to the public.”
He also criticised the survey as being one-sided, due to its concentration on only the wet season farming, noting that Nigeria did so well in its dry season farming.
Lokpobiri noted that for over two years of being a minister, he never received a copy of any of the previous surveys from NAERLS, decrying over-dependence on data generated by foreign organisations, which might not represent the true situation of Nigeria.
He noted that investors had trooped to the ministry to establish farms and production facilities, but were discouraged due to lack of data.
He therefore stressed the need for NAERLS to ensure annual public presentation and commercialisation of the report to generate more revenue for government.
Indeed, the study showed that in the wheat sector, farmers were facing tumults challenges and this is fueling unrest.
Particularly, the report said that Nigeria lost fortunes of wheat production amid post-harvest losses, lack of quality seeds and other inputs, as well as non-availability of farming implements.
Realistically, these factors hindered Nigeria’s quest to achieve the set target of 1.5 million tons wheat production earmarked for 2018 as many of the farmers were forced to abandon their hectares of wheat farms.
Speaking on the issues in a chat with New Telegraph, a member of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN), said lack of improved seeds had forced farmers in Gombe State to abandon their initial plans of cultivating 10,000 hectares of wheat farms in the state.
“Our cultivation is limited by lack of quality seeds and farming implements. Most of our farmers complained that the available seeds have been planted and replanted for over five years. This has resulted in deterioration in terms of crop quality, as the crop yield will not be good,” he said.
He lamented that good quality seeds, when available, were not enough for distribution to the farmers during the period under review.
“Initially, Lake Chad Research Institute brought us foundation seeds, but the problem we had then was that the seeds, which were of good quality, were not sufficient. Those farmers who were able to plant the crop early enough harvested three to four tons on each hectare of farmland, while those that planted late realised between one and two tons per hectare,’’ the source said.
Ironically, many Nigerians have been deceived under the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari that the country’s agric sector is recording unprecedented achievement, but the realities on the ground depicts the contrary.