Home News Abia, Imo residents decry high cost of food items

Abia, Imo residents decry high cost of food items

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UMUAHIA- Residents of Abia and Imo in the South-East zone have expressed deep concern over the rising cost of food items in different parts of the country.

Some of the people, who spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the high cost of food items, said that the trend was having harsh economic implication on the citizenry.

They spoke on some of the possible causes of the development and potential remedies.

In Abia, the Acting Chairman, Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Bonny Umeh, attributed the high cost of foodstuffs in the region to the expensive nature of farming.

Umeh said: “Farming is very expensive. Before you can farm to feed other people or contribute to food security, it has to be large scale.

“In the South-East, our vegetation is very thick, compared to that in the North or Middle Belt.

“You can imagine somebody raising N5 million to N8 million to brush a farmland, because he has to rent farm equipment at exorbitant rate.

“How is he going to raise that money?

“And if we don’t go into large-scale farming, we will not overcome this terrible situation we have found ourselves in.”

Umeh also lamented over the problem of the land tenure system, saying that many families do not release their land for agricultural practices.

He, therefore, urged government agencies, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, to exercise their expertise in agribusiness by deploying their agricultural equipment and modern
methods to enhance large-scale farming in the region.

“They have these equipment but prefer to rent them to contractors doing private jobs, who will pay them, while the farmers end up with writing series of applications that will not be honoured,” he said.

Umeh also appealed to the government to make rural roads motorable for famers for easy evacuation of their produce.

“If there is access road, other people will be interested in farming and this will help to reduce the high cost of foodstuffs,” he said.

He further called on the government to incentivise farmers by availing them with credit facilities to run agribusinesses.

According to him, the Bank of Industry and other microfinance institutions should be directed to make facilities available to farmers at little or zero interest.

Umeh described farming as a serious business, pointing out that it required a huge finanacial outlay to become a successful farmer,  especially under the current harsh economic condition in the country.

Another farmer, Mr Candy Ndubuisi, said that farmers need to be properly trained in contemporary farming methods.

Ndubuisi advised the government to encourage graduates of Agriculture to go into professional farming, where they would have a sense of self accomplishment.

He said that apart from making funds available to farmers, they need to be given farm inputs that could improve their outputs during harvest.

He also urged government to prepare silos and other storage  mechanisms that could help to preserve seasonal foods, such as grains, in order to cut losses.

Also, the Southeast Coordinator of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Chief Dunlop Okoro, advised Nigerians to embark on subsistence farming in order to force down the high cost of food items.

Okoro said that the measure would engender mass food production with more food available in the market.

He said: “Every Nigerian should go back to the land and do subsistence farming and forget about mechanised farming.

“If you have a farm where you grow cassava, at intervals you can go there to harvest cassava and produce garri.

“It means that everyone can produce food, thereby increasing the food supply in the country,” he said.

Okoro said that promoting sustainable agriculture remains crucial to ensuring food security and environmental conservation in the country.

Also in Imo, the National Secretary of the Rice farmers Association, Mr Livy Ngwangwa, called on farmers to repay agricultural loans from the government to ensure the sustainability of the facility.

Ngwangwa said that he was worried that a lot of Federal Government’s agricultural interventions failed because of the failure by farmers to repay government’s facilities.

He regretted that the unfortunate development negatively affected the agric sector because, according to him, farmers cannot afford to buy the equipment they need for successful large-scale farming.

He said that with the present high cost of farm tools and equipment, the loans would have helped farmers to purchase crops and inputs to ensure good harvest at the end of the season.

Ngwangwa further said that the government had also stopped providing farm inputs, such as fertilisers and improved seedlings, resulting in delayed cultivation.

He regretted that the situation would continue to inflate food prices in the market because farmers must endeavour to break even or cover their cost.

Also commenting on the issue, a stockfish dealer in Owerri, Mrs Theresa Iwuji, said that the high exchange rate also contributed greatly to the high cost of food items in the country.

Iwuji argued that unless the value of the naira improved, the problem would only get worse.

She also said that a lot of Nigerians prefer imported goods over locally manufactured goods, resulting in the soaring food prices due to the high importation cost.

Another trader in Owerri, Mr Ashiru Suleiman, said that the security problems faced by farmers in the North also led to shortage of farm produce and the consequential food inflation.

According to Suleiman, farmers living in border communities prefer to sell their goods across the borders where they face less troubles.

He also said that the cost of transporting goods from the point of production to sales is also considered in fixing the prices of foodstuffs to ensure that both the farmers and traders make profit.

An Economics teacher, Mr Emmanuel Eze, said that the problem could only be controlled, “if the government takes the proper steps to curb inflation”.

Eze also said that there was a need to encourage farmers to enhance their output, adding, “This will not only boost revenue generation, but also lead to food price cut.

He also called for the revitalisation of the nation’s refineries to end fuel importation, saying that the measure would help to stabilise the economy. (NAN)

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