A countrywide food crisis is imminent except the Federal Government is able to stop the campaign of violence currently prosecuted by fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
An investigation has revealed that the bombings and other violent attacks carried out by the sect in the North is making it increasingly difficult for farmers in the region to move their produce to other states.
Most of the foodstuffs consumed and traded in the nation’s urban centres, particularly in the South, are grown in the North.
The investigation also revealed that the violence has also affected the cattle trade as traders are finding it difficult to transport their animals to the South.
Our correspondents report that the crisis in the North has forced some of the crop farmers and pastoralists to abandon their lands and relocate to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroun.In March, the National Emergency Management Agency said about 65 per cent of northern farmers had migrated to the South because of the insecurity they faced.
The agency warned that the country faced a famine by the end of this year because most of the small-scale farmers and big-time farmers in the North were threatened by terrorist attacks.
“The attacks on these farmers who produce beans, onions, pepper, maize, rice, livestock and catfish in the Lake Chad area for the southern states, have forced them to migrate since the Boko Haram insurgency broke out in Borno State in July 2009,” it said.
The United Nations in February also expressed fears that the activities of the sect would make it difficult for the World Food Programme to source its supply from Nigeria to affected areas in the Sahel region.
A cattle rearer and traditional title holder of the Ciroman Ladduga in the Southern part of Kaduna, Mr. Bayero Ibrahim, confirmed that socio-economic activities of the region were gradually becoming extinct due to the crisis.
“Everybody is fleeing the area. This crisis has forced some of us to flee to Niger, Chad and Cameroun. This development has greatly dealt a devastating blow to the North,” he said.
Similarly, Mohammed Maikudi, a subsistence farmer, said “The North is gradually being killed.”
According to him, farmers in the region are finding it difficult to move from one town to another freely.
He said, “We are always afraid of moving from Kaduna to Maiduguri and Kaduna to Yola through Jos. The insecurity is hindering the movement of people.
“Movement is really restricted. Because of the crisis, we are unable to move our produce to other parts of the country for sale. This development has led to heavy loss of money.
“Last year, I had substantial land where I cultivated tomatoes, cucumber and other perishable goods. When they were ripe for sale, there was violence and the produce got rotten.”
Maikudi added that some of his co-farmers had been forced to relocate, “No reasonable person will live in a violent environment. Wherever your life is threatened, you will definitely leave there and move to another place where there is peace. It is only when there is peace that you live in a place.”
In Plateau, farming of major food crops like Irish potatoes and vegetables like cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and peas have been hampered by the incessant attacks on farmers by itinerant herdsmen.
Most of these crops are being farmed in lowland Plateau, which is conducive for dry season farming, but their prices have hit the rooftops because farmers are afraid to go to the farms.
For instance, internecine strife between the Beroms and cattle rearers in Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Jos South have hampered the cultivation of vegetables, while Bokkos, which is notable for the cultivation of Irish potatoes is suffering a similar fate.
One of the farmers, Baba Gyang, described the situation as “alarming.”
“The constant killings have driven us out of our farms. We can no longer go to the farms because as you bend down to work, the next thing you will hear are gunshots behind you. Our wives and children have been killed on the way to the farms.”
A middleman at Ferin Gada market, Mallam Adamu, also said fewer farmers conveyed their goods to the market because they complained that they were always attacked on the farms.
The Federal Government on Friday confirmed that indeed, bombings were a threat to the food sector.
The Special Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture on Communications, Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, told our correspondent that terrorism remained a challenge to agriculture despite efforts made to revive it.
He said, “Farmers will run from the farm if their lives are threatened by terrorists but it is beyond the ministry to provide security. It is the job of security agencies. Farming cannot take place where there is insecurity.
“Where there is disruption in the sector, it will lead to unemployment. Inflation is also fallout of such development.”
Also an agriculture expert, Dr. Michael Aderohunmu, told SUNDAY PUNCH that any economy that suffered from terrorism was bound to record shortage.
“Obviously, interruption in any process will affect the output. Economic action must be taken in other parts of the country to boost agriculture. There is a need to create clusters of agricultural production across Nigeria,” he said.
As a result of the inability to farm in the North, some states are already taking the brunt.
The Secretary, Tomato Perishable Sellers Association, Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr. Dauda Rasaq said traders in his union lose about N27m daily because of the prevailing insecurity in the North.
In an interview with our correspondent in Ilorin on Friday, he said about 60,000 bags of tomatoes were sold daily in the market before but that only 900 bags are now being sold daily.
Also Chairman, Onion Dealers Association, Aiyelabowo market, Oke-Olowo Market, Ilorin West, Mr. Abdullahi Onigbede, said traders in the section lose about N19m daily.
“Because of the violence in the North, we now find it difficult to get what we want from the region. If this continues, our businesses will collapse; citizens will find it difficult to get what they want. It will lead to starvation.”
Our correspondent in Bayelsa reports that the state is undersupplied with the foodstuff. In Swali, a popular market in Yenagoa, only a handful of traders were selling food items to buyers, who were seen complaining about their prices.
Most of the sellers told our correspondent that they could not buy the items from wholesalers who arrived from the North with the goods because of their high prices.
One of them who identified herself as Patience Ibi said a basket of tomatoes which used to be sold at N6000 is now sold at N18, 000.
Further investigations showed that one piece of tomato is sold at N50 on the streets and mini markets in Yenagoa.
“If this trend continues, we will have to live without food items from the North. People will be forced to cook without tomatoes,” Ibi said.
The head of the butchers at Kuto Market, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Mr. Samsudeen Balogun, said the violence and bombings in the North had continued to affect the prices of live cows.
He said an average-sized live cow they used to purchase for less than N100, 000, now costs between N150, 000 and N200, 000.
Traders in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, also attributed the rise in the cost of foodstuffs in the FCT to the insecurity in the North.
A member of the Association of Perishable Foods Dealers at Kubwa Market, Abuja, Mr. Yusuf Sanusi, said foodstuff traders now pay more to farmers following the rise in the cost of foodstuffs like yam, beans, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables.
Similarly, the Olori Oloja of Osun State, Mrs Mary Oyebode, said the spate of bombings in the country, had adversely affected buying and selling in the state.
“Transporters are afraid to travel to the North now. Farmers in the North are groaning too; they have been calling us and asking why we have not been coming to buy produce.”