By Dianabasi Effiong
Port Harcourt, Oct. 23, 2020 In the absence of functional government silos in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers, farmers across the four states now utilise private warehouses as alternative storage facilities for their grains.
A survey across the states however shows that some farmers, who can afford it, make arrangements to store grains in Edo and Cross River states where there are functional silos.
NAN reports that in Cross River, the private concessionaires contracted by the Federal Government to manage the silos at Ogaga, Yala Local Government Area, are not on ground yet.
Mr Iwara Bassey, the State Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), in Cross River, made this known in an interview with NAN in Calabar.
According to Bassey, currently there are no grains in the silos in Yala.
“We are yet to receive the concessionaires and as I speak, we don’t have grains in the silos,” he said.
Also in Calabar, Mr Etim Nakanda, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said that farm inputs distributed as palliatives from the Federal Government to farmers in the state are grossly inadequate.
According to Nakanda, the 5,000 cocoa nurseries, cashew nuts, and oil palm nurseries from the government are not enough for farmers.
“Many farmers did not get the palliatives because it was small. Even me as chairman did not benefit,’’ he said.
Mr Felix Kehis, Federal Director of Agriculture in Delta State also affirms that there are no government silos in the state.
Kehis, who spoke with NAN in Asaba, said there are two silos in the South-South zone; one at Irruah in Edo and another at Ogoja in Cross River.
He said that farmers in the six South-South states, including Delta, are serviced by the silos in Edo and Cross River.
Kehis said that the concession of the silos is a Federal Government idea to make them work better through private sector initiative.
“Federal Government thought it will be better managed by the private sector, but as we speak, the process has not been concluded; the silos are still being managed by the ministry staff.
“The silos have good stock of grains, beans, corn and rice as at the last count and the distribution of grains during the COVID-19 lockdown was done by the Federal Government agencies involved in disaster management such as NEMA,” he said.
Kehis said that farmers in Delta also explore opportunities provided by the silos in Edo to store their grains.
On his part, Delta Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Mr Sylvanus Ejezie, said that flooding dealt a big blow to rice farmers in the state.
Ejezie said that he lost more than 60 hectares of rice to flood in 2020.
He said that since there are no silos in the state, but in neighbouring Edo State, he had stored his grains in a personal warehouse for a period of one year.
“This year, the Federal Government sponsored Anchor Borrowers Programme is the best thing that has happened to farmers in the country.
“We received our input for wet season farming but unfortunately the flood came and washed everything away. We are, however, looking forward to the dry season farming which will commence by November.
“Before keying into the Anchor Borrowers Programme, I stored grains in my own warehouse outside the farm and it will last for one year.
“Edo is too far from us, so, we cannot take our grains to the silos.
“The Anchor Borrowers Programme is designed to enable the anchor (off-taker) buy the grains from us and store in the silos to enable government manage the grains but the flood has washed off our plants for the year.
“If not for the flood, the programme is good particularly when the loan is interest free, as benefitting farmers will have to pay back only the capital after sales,” Ejezie said.
The Akwa Ibom Director of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Uyobong Uko, also explains why silos are necessary for farmers.
According to Uko, Nigeria survived food shortage during the COVID-19 lockdown due to availability of grains in the silos.
He commended the Federal Government for building silos in the country with grains to serve the people in times of scarcity.
Uko noted that the Federal Government has built 112,000 tonnes capacity silos to preserve grains.
He said that the silos are filled with testing grains to determine the quality and condition of the silos.
“As a Ministry of the Federal Government, we are here to ensure food availability, sustainability and food security.
“We are here to partner with the local government, give them support, so as to ensure that agriculture in the country is improved.
“We are here to ensure that our farmers have enough seedlings, to ensure that our farmers have been able to go to their farms, cultivate their crops, market them and also provide food for the people of Akwa Ibom state,” Uko asserted.
He said that the Federal Government has built silos in Ibiono Ibom, immediately after Ikot Ada Idem in the state.
“The silos have been completed. The project was threatened by the ravine, but the contract has been completed.
“I must say that Nigeria did not go down due to COVID-19 because of the food we had stored in our silos all over the country,” Uko said.
He said however, that the silos are yet to be given to concessionaires to manage, adding that government will soon hand them over for effective management.
The director said that the Federal Government’s national programme on food security is not under any threat.
He said that the programme is undergoing transformation and will soon be repositioned for better service delivery.
Also, the the Director of Information in the state Ministry of Health, Mr Akwaowo Obop, said there are no state owned silos in the state.
Obop said that no grains have been released to the people of Akwa Ibom as the only silo in the state contains testing grains.
He called on the state government to establish silos to distribute grains in times of scarcity, stressing that the usefulness of silos to the economy is enormous.
Mr Bassey Inwang, the Chairman, AFAN in Akwa Ibom, said the state government has distributed farm inputs to farmers.
Inwang however, appealed to the Federal Government to also help farmers in the state with farm inputs to increase food availability in the state.
“Adequate farm inputs is a panacea to adequate food production. In Akwa Ibom State, farm inputs are distributed to farmers free of charge,’’ he said.