Farmers in the South-West have mixed opinions on the Federal Government’s border closure, while some commend the initiative others decried it, describing it as ill-timed and insensitive.
A prominent farmer in Ekiti and a legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola, commended President Muhamnadu Buhari for the closure, saying it would tackle smuggling in the country.
Babalola said that Nigeria was abundantly endowed with agriculture potential and other natural resources but the country was still grappling with food insufficiency and economic dislocation due to its over-reliance on imported products.
He said that there was need for a return to huge investment in agriculture to reposition the country and stop capital flight arising from passion for imported products.
The Chairman of Ekiti state chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Adebola Alagbada said the association would always support any government initiative or policy to empower farmers as long as such policies were not designed to create hardship for the teeming populace.
However, rice millers and dealers in Ido-Osi Local Government Area in Ekiti, condemned the Federal Government’s new policy to close the land borders.
They lamented that the sudden action of the Federal Government to close the borders had caused astronomical rise in the prices of rice both foreign and locally produce ones.
A rice dealer, Mr Godwin Owolabi said that before the closure of the borders, the price of bag of rice was between N15,000 and N16, 000, but it had shot up to between N24,000 and N30,000.
Owolabi appealed to the Federal Government to reconsider its decision on the closure of the land borders to make rice and other food items available for consumption and at affordable cost.
The Chairman of Farmers Association in Ido-Osi Local Government Area, Mr Oluropo Dada said ”I am surprised that the Federal Government decided to close land borders to stop importation of rice and other items, when it had not first provided needed funds or loans for farmers to farm.
“In Ido-Ekiti, we do not have good farm implements to cultivate food and cash crops, we make use of labourers to help make heaps but with good tractors and funding, we will be ready to plant rice”, he said.
In Osun, Mr Ismaila Ayodele, a member of Osun Rice Farmers Association said the closure of the nation’s border by the Federal Government to prevent rice importation would encourage local production and bring more gains to the local rice farmers.
“The reason locally produced rice is more expensive than imported one is because of failure to adopt mechanised farming. If locally produced rice is cultivated by mechanised methods, the cost of production will be lower.
“Research also reveals that 25 per cent to 30 per cent of farm yield is lost during harvest, meaning if we have the necessary equipment, a farmer that gets 70 bags of rice on his farm can easily get more than 100 bags on the same farm,” Ayodele said.
Increased local production
Dr Olabisi Awoniyi, Assistant Director of Commercial Agriculture and Training, Niger River Basin Authority said demand for locally produced rice in Nigeria was higher than its production.
Awoniyi said that this had created a deficit that was yet to be met.
“More people will now get into rice production and possibly the local farmer will be able to meet up with the demand.
“The border closure has boosted the demand for locally produced rice since there is no access to imported rice.
“Ordinarily at harvest, price of Paddy rice ranges from N4, 000 to N6, 000, but now a bag of Paddy rice cost about N13, 000, which is about a 100 per cent increase,” he said.
However, Mrs Olubisi Adegoke, a caterer, said that the border closure had affected her business “because we are unable to get quality rice to cook for our customers.’’
“The cost is killing our business; local rice with stones goes for N15,000 while local rice without stone is N21,000.
“We need urgent help to cope with the reality on ground,” she said