Farmers across the country have expressed fears that the rising costs of food items in the various markets will worsen this year owing to the activities of killer Fulani herdsmen who have taken over farmlands in most parts of the country.
They lamented that the inability of the Federal Government to address the dangerous trend might cause starvation in most homes as the people would pay more to buy inadequate food items in the market.
The Chairman, Benue State chapter of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Aondoana Kuhe, who spoke on behalf of farmers in the state, told newsmen that the current unchecked attacks on his members in the state by the killer herdsmen would definitely cause famine in the country.
Kuhe lamented that most areas, where the food crops were cultivated, had been occupied by the herdsmen while farmers, who escaped being killed, had fled to urban communities, where there is relative safety.
He said, “Benue is ranked among the highest producers of rice, yam, soya bean, corn and sesame seeds but when our farmers could no longer assess their farms, how do we produce food crops for the nation?”
He noted with regrets that 14 out of the 23 local government areas in the state reputed for large production of food crops, were currently under attacks by the Fulani.
Similarly, the Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, James Anbua, who corroborated the AFAN’s claims, said farmers in the state had lost over N8bn on rice alone since the attacks started on New Year’s Day.
Anbua noted that Benue was ranked among the fifth largest producer of rice in the country with the expectation of a bumper harvest this year.
He said, “The two LGAs (Guma and Logo) produce 25,000 metric tons of rice and soya bean but there are just a few in the market because the ones that are due for harvest could not be taken from the farms.”
The commissioner stressed that the attackers set ablaze bans of yams and other food crops after feeding their animals with enough quantity thereby making the food production ratio of the state to drop by 45 per cent.
Some market women, who spoke to newsmen, decried the rise in prices of food stuffs between February and June this year as a result of the attacks on farmers by herdsmen.
For instance, they claimed that in February, a tuber of yam was sold for N200 in Makurdi, though depending on the size, but that as of June, a tuber of yam in the markets cost between N400 and N500.
A rice seller at Wadata market, Makurdi, Mrs. Apeh Ogbu, said prices of every food items had jumped up.
According to her, in January, a ‘mudu’ (measure) of local rice was sold for N350 but that the same measurement sells for N500.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Agbekoya Farmers Association, Chief Olatunji Bandele, confirmed that food crops being produced from the northern part of the country had become very expensive in the various markets in the south.
He said, “Pepper, tomatoes and onions are very expensive now. The entire country still depends on the northern farmers to produce the various varieties from their farms.
“Generally speaking, most of the food items that come from the North are on the high side in terms of prices. I think the price of garri is now N7,000 per bag. Food items that come from the North like yam and beans have become very expensive.”
Food prices have increased considerably between February and the first week of July in some Lagos markets visited by one of our correspondents.
Investigations in some of the markets revealed that in February, a moderate tuber of yam was sold for N500 but now, it sells for between N1,300 and N1,500.
One ‘derica’ of beans was N250 in February but it is currently being sold for N350 while a paint bucket of garri, which was N300 then, now attracts N400.
One bag of rice was between N11,000 and N12,000 in February but now, it is between N15,000 and N15,500.
However, the Lagos State Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Chief Femi Oke, allayed the fears that the attacks by herdsmen would trigger food price hike, but called on the government to end the killings.
He said, “Food prices cannot go up. In fact, the cost of some food items is coming down because more people are going into agriculture. Also, this year’s budget is encouraging than what we had in the previous years.”
Also speaking on the matter, the President, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, Segun Adewumi, decried the killings by herdsmen.
He said, “Farmers are now being disturbed by herders and I believe this disturbance, if not addressed in earnest, will affect the prices of food, especially yam.”