Expert: Middlemen Fleecing Peasant Farmers, Creating Artificial Scarcity

Gilbert Ekugbe

An agribusiness expert and the Director General, Premier Agribusiness Academy, Mr.Toromade Francis, has stated that middlemen are taking advantage of peasant farmers by buying off their produce to hoard in a bid to create artificial scarcity for staple crops.
Indeed, the country has continued to witness the rising cost of staple food crops despite being the largest producer of staple crops in West Africa by a large margin.

In a telephone chat with THISDAY, he said the middlemen rent and own large warehouses in Zaria anticipating the prices of staple crops to rise in their quest to make unfair profit to the detriment of farmers and Nigeria at large.

According to him, “The most unfortunate thing is that it is not the farmers that are making money in Nigeria, but the middlemen who go to the farms to buy from the peasant farmers who do not have money. They rent warehouses in Zaria waiting for price to go up which they will eventually sell expensive to feed millers who will then pass the cost to consumers.”

He emphasized on the need to educate farmers on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), saying that until Nigeria develops human capital on most impactful agricultural practice, the federal government’s target of achieving food security will only remain a mirage.

He however bemoaned over the nation’s inability to invest in mechanized farming, adding that Nigeria still depends largely on subsistence farming which is grossly inadequate to meet its demand for food.

“We are not doing mechanized farming, we are still depending on subsistence farming method and considering our population, there is no way subsistence farming can meet our food needs. It is even better now and it might go worse in the next ten 10 years, because people are still using cutlasses and hoes in Nigeria and there is no place in the modern world where they cutlasses and hoes any longer. With the subsistence farming our yield per hectare is low and there is no education on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs),” he said.

Meanwhile, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) identified credit constraint as one of the key barriers to adoption of modern agricultural technologies such as chemical fertilizer, improved seeds, irrigation technologies among smallholders.

He said to address food insecurity in Nigeria, his Academy has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IITA to train farmers on production of yam, maize, cassava, rice, soyabeans and cowpea, stressing that it also signed MoU with the Nigeria Institute of Animal Science to train on poultry, cattle rearing, goat rearing, piggery, dairy and aquaculture.

“We have succeeded in bringing the stakeholders together in both the public and private sector to constitute an advisory council committee involving Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), International Training Fund (ITF), Catfish and Allied Fish Association of Nigeria (CAFAN), Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (FMARD) and many more,” he added.

He pointed out the need to make more lands available for farming to boost production of food, saying that an average farmer has less than 2 hectares of land as against 500 hectares compared to other climes
“Until proper education is given to farmers on the most impactful practice in agriculture we will not be able to achieve food security and will continue to depend on importation. For instance, maize is a staple food in Nigeria consumed by both human and animals, but we are recording 2.5 tonnes yield per hectare in Nigeria while South Africa are getting close to 10 tonnes per hectare.

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