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Nigeria: Farmers face difficulties accessing farm inputs due to COVID-19 lockdown

It’s around eight o’clock in the morning and Bello Iliyasu is already riding a motorcycle—not by choice, but because there are restrictions on public transport due to COVID-19. It’s not possible for him to take local transport to his farm, 17 kilometers away from home.

He says, “It takes me close to an hour to get there if the road is good. The buses have almost stopped and travel infrequently.”

Mr. Iliyasu is a small-scale farmer who grows maize, soya beans, and rice. He lives in Kaduna state, in the northwestern zone of Nigeria. He is one of the farmers who are facing difficulties accessing farm inputs following the Nigerian government’s imposition of social distancing and lockdown measures across the nation since March this year.

Mr. Iliyasu says that due to the COVID-19 restrictions on travel, it’s not easy for him to access inputs such as seeds and fertilizer. In addition, the cost of farm inputs has skyrocketed.

He says that before the government of Nigeria imposed COVID-19 measures, farmers were able to access seeds, fertilizer, and other inputs at an affordable price. Mr. Iliyasu adds: “But now the situation is quite different … The price for maize seed has changed from 140 to 160 Nigerian naira (from $0.36 US to $0.41 US) per one and half kilogram bag, while a bag of fertilizer has changed from 6,500 to 8,200 Nigerian naira (from $17 US to $21 US).”

Although there has been easing of COVID-19 restrictions, many farmers are still feeling the pinch whenever they want to access farm inputs.

Stella John-Jack is a farmer in Ogun state, near the city of Lagos. She is also having difficulty purchasing farm inputs as prices rise. She explains: “I farm cassava, maize, cocoyam, and local spinach, but the problem is that the price of seeds has doubled. For instance, before the lockdown, we were buying maize seed at around 20,000 Nigerian naira ($52 US), and now it’s 40,000 Nigerian naira ($103 US).”

Mrs. John-Jack adds: “I will get a reduced profit this year and I don’t know how I will support my son who is about to start secondary school this year. Farm input sellers hiked the prices in expectation of scarcity of inputs due to the shutdown of all interstate travel by the government, and severe restrictions on travel within the state.”

Bitrus Luka is a farmer in Plateau state, in north central Nigeria. He grows maize, potatoes, groundnuts, and soya beans. He says the lockdown measures have increased the price of fertilizer.

Mr. Luka says: “The government specified that a fertilizer bag is 5,500 Nigerian naira ($14 US), but people are selling it in the market for about 8,000 Nigerian naira ($21 US) or sometimes even 9,000 Nigerian naira ($23 US). It’s even more if you try to buy urea fertilizers.”

David Dung also farms in Plateau State, rearing poultry and growing crops such as maize. He says the lockdown in his state was strictly enforced. Mr. Dung explains: “Initially, before the relaxation of the lockdown measures, it was not easy to travel from one place to another because we had to seek permission from the police. I have a friend who tried to access his farm without permission and was caught and arrested.”

Mr. Dung says that lockdown measures such as restrictions on movement have led to increased prices for poultry feed and fertilizer. He explains: “There was a hike in feed for poultry, and fertilizer became very expensive because its price rose up by almost 50 per cent. The price of fertilizer has become so uncertain that people rush for it whenever it is available, just to store some.”

He adds: “Pre-lockdown, I used to pay 3,250 Nigerian naira ($8.41 US) per bag of poultry feed, but the price went up to 3,700 Nigerian naira ($9.57 US) and at times even 4,500 Nigerian naira ($11.64 US) per bag.”

The scarcity of fertilizer also slowed planting and affected what Mr. Dung intended to plant. He explains: “I failed to grow some of the crops such as Irish potatoes because of the delay in accessing seed. This happened because of COVID-19 lockdown measures. The maize yield will also be affected because of the delays in the application of fertilizer.”

Although it has been a very difficult and stressful season for many farmers due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, Mr. Iliyasu advises farmers to keep working hard and focus on their farms by using innovative ways of dealing with the challenge of accessing farm inputs.

He says: “Use alternatives like organic manure if you cannot afford fertilizer. If possible, work with your family or other neighbouring farmers to help each other on your farms if you cannot afford to hire machinery.”

This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.

Photo: Farmers in northern Ghana in their field, 2015. Credit: Jesse Winter / Farm Radio International