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Nigeria: ‘We Are Making Farming Attractive to Farmers in Bauchi’

| May 6, 2013 More

Bauchi โ€” Alhaji Tasi’u Mohammed is Bauchi State Commissioner for Agriculture. In this interview with reporters in Bauchi he speaks on government’s plan for farmers this farming season and how the federal government’s fertilizer policy has affected farming in the state. Excerpts:

As the rainy season is fast approaching, what plans do you have for farmers in Bauchi State?

Yes, this year we have plans for our farmers especially on the issue of fertilizer, improved seeds and tractor hiring. These are the essential things we require for our farmers this year’s farming season. We are lucky because many people may think we are a little bit late, but I can tell you that we are not late. We assumed the rain would start by the second week of May, or maybe it will reach 22nd or 23rd of May to May ending and we are expecting the rain will end October ending.

But the rain has started in Bauchi and Toro area, down north from Darazo to Zaki. They were the ones to receive rain around May. We have a plan in the area of fertilizer. Last year through our fertilizer blending plant we blended 10,000 metric tonnes of NPK and this year we are preparing to blend about 16,000 metric tonnes. We have placed order for the chemicals and we expect them to arrive here by the end of this month (April). When we clear everything from Lagos, they will arrive here, and the company will start blending the NPK if the chemicals arrive in good time. If they don’t not arrive in good time, we have another plan to source the NPK fertilizer for our farmers. And for the Urea also we are going to buy 5,000 metric tonnes for the large scale farmers. For the medium, we have this e-wallet system of distribution which we hope to get from the federal government.

Last year Bauchi State did well compared to other states of the federation, we took first position. We hope this year, too we will maintain our position.

Under the e-wallet distribution system, a peasant farmer who received two bags last year, will receive four bags this year. We have already educated our farmers that those who filled the form last year should not fill it this year. We have told them that if they sent the text this year and come to collect the fertilizer, there and then identity card would be given to them. They will collect their pictures and give them a slip which they will fill and collect their fertilizer.

So, the only way to benefit more from this e-wallet system is for a farmer to use his family members and allow all of them to fill the form. If each and every one of them will get two bags, a peasant farmer will get enough fertilizer without any difficulty. Instead of them going to the market to buy a measure of fertilizer for their farms. Last year they were given the seed free. But this year we don’t know if the seed will be free like.

Distributing and sourcing of fertilizer and seeds comes with challenges to the ministries of agric. How do you intend to do it this year?

Well, here in Bauchi the distribution method is simple. We have Bauchi State Agricultural Supply Company, BASAC. It is in charge of the distribution. It has shops in all the 20 local government areas of the state. But the problem we have is with the farmers. Some of them do not recognize the BASAC shops. If they are buying a chemical, they can go to BASAC shops. Their chemicals are certified by NAFDAC, they are guaranteed, but because of ignorance, you will see some farmers during the market day patronizing people ringing bells in the markets asking them to come and buy.

I am advising our farmers to liaise with BASAC in our local governments in order to get genuine agricultural chemicals. Right now, we have seeds; we have insecticides, including the pumping machines for dry season farming. Everything is on the ground. We don’t have problem with distribution method. There is always a difference between our price and the distributor’s price. Ours is subsidized.

Inadequate tractors hamper smooth operation of farmers every year?

Already, recently we took 28 tractors to Steyr for maintenance. They are on the ground. We have ordered 22 new tractors, 11 have arrived, the remaining 11 will soon arrive. We have enough tractors to take care of our farmers in the state. We also have another programme we are arranging with the private sector. We are hoping in each local government we are going to have a service centre with five tractors, which will make Bauchi State to have 100 tractors in all the local governments. We are going to have five and they will be handed over to private people, they will be managed by the company supervised by a consultant. So, what is required is for the beneficiary to pay a minimum deposit. To take the tractor, the state, federal and local governments will give their own contributions. So the tractor will come at a subsidized price.

So, we are working seriously and if things go well and we are full of hope, this year our farmers will be very, very happy. Individuals who have good tractors, we are appealing to them to release them to our farmers at very subsidized rates. We have our own tractor hiring unit in the headquarters. We are going to review the prices because we buy fuel. We want to make sure that the tractors are always functional. We are going to set up a committee to monitor the activities of the hiring unit. We will soon visit Steyr to see how far they have gone with the repair of the tractors we sent to them to repair and to know the exact time they will deliver the remaining 11 tractors

Still on the distribution of fertilizer. Last year many large scale farmers complained that they did not get the commodity because of e-wallet distribution system?

Really, they have to complain, and I can reason with them because the federal government took everybody unawares with the new system, because before, the federal government used to give fertilizers to state governments on loan to be deducted at source. And the government gives it to farmers at subsidized rates. Not only that large scale farmers were given allocation letters to collect the fertilizer, one person will be given a trailer or two. But now they said under the new system any state that signed undertaking to participate under the -e wallet system will not operate a parallel market. The moment you put an order, then you have to sell your own at a higher rate because in the e-wallet system government sells at 50% subsidized rate. What we did even last year, the big farmers who used to get 200 bags, we gave them 100 bags. Even this year we have this plan, large and medium scale farmers we will give them. The state will listen to them. We have our farmers. We have their list with the agricultural development programme. We have their list here in the ministry. The state government will listen to them. We will see what we can do with what we have on ground. I am not promising to give anybody a trailer or two. But we are encouraging people to participate in e-wallet system with their large families; one will get what he wants.

Last year the ministry sought for N1 billion loan for the fertilizer company?

Yes, but up till now, the ministry is yet to access the N1 billion loan, and when we access it N600 million will go to BASAC to buy Urea for blending, N200 million will be given to the blending plant as a working capital. They have to buy sacks, kaolin, diesel. The remaining N200 million will be for buying seeds for our farmers by BASAC as it was directed by the state assembly.

So, what remains now is the governor will sign. It will go to the minister of finance. He too will sign. Then the Accountant General of the Federation will also sign. Once the Accountant General signs, he will send a copy to revenue mobilization for the bank to release the money because they are sure that their money is with the accountant general and it will be deducted from source and remitted to them as agreed.

Recently, government assisted farmers with loan to boost cotton production. Did you record any success?

Yes, I think the success we have recorded is we are now on the stage of collecting the money. We gave N51,000 each to cotton farmers in 13 local government areas out of the N51 million approved for cotton farmers by Governor Isa Yuguda. And we have captured 120 cotton farmers, all the farmers. The governor has also given 50% subsidy to encourage them. And the reason we did not take the cotton in time is because the price was so low but now the price has risen. We can sell it to cotton companies because already we have called the West African Cotton WACCOT farmers with their branch in Gombe. They will come and buy the cotton directly from the farmers and pay them. The farmers will also pay back to the government through my office. We have established three centres for collecting the cotton in Bauchi, Azare and Darazo.

Not only cotton, we have also boosted groundnut farmers. We have purchased 20 oil milling machines to be put in 20 local government areas of the state, and already 11 have been fixed. We also intend to help gum Arabic and cassava farmers. We have many plans for all categories of farmers in the state.

Category: Bauchi State News

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