Despite huge loans disbursement, food crisis bites harder

Despite huge loans disbursement, food crisis bites harder

The current administration has disbursed more loans, credit facilities and other interventions into the agric sector, compared to past administrations, going by the reports of the Federal Government.

Though there is no specific figure on what has been released so far, but in spite of this, the country is facing the worst food crisis in recent times as food prices soar while many Nigerians are suffering from perpetual hunger.

Last month, the House of Representatives decided to investigate the disbursement of loans and credit facilities by the Federal Government in the agriculture sector since 2009.

The period under reviews cover the administrations of the late Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, as well as the present regime of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The resolution was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Chike Okafor at the plenary. Okafor said from 2009 to date, the Federal Government had approved the disbursement of funds to farmers in various schemes to the tune of over N275b, ranging from Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), to help farmers improve agricultural production and guarantee food security.

The lawmaker also noted that apart from increasing food supply, the schemes were to grant agricultural loans to large and small-scale commercial farmers to lower the prices of agricultural produce, generate employment and increase foreign exchange earnings.

The food inflation in the country has seen food prices rise to double-digit figures while Nigerians earn less income. Last February, Nigeria’s food inflation rate surged to 21.79 per cent — the highest rate recorded in the country since October 2005 — exactly 15 years and four months ago. Since then, the inflation rate has been galloping.

Despite the fall of the inflation for the second time in May, dropping from 18.12 per cent reported in April to 17.93 per cent, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), prices of food and consumer goods have continued to soar in the face of disposable incomes that have already been weakened.

For now, 50kg bag of rice (premium Local) which sold for N18, 000 is now N21, 000; a paint bucket of Garri, that went for N300 and N350 is now N1, 300; a kilogram of chicken previously sold at N1, 100 is now N1, 500/kg; 50kg basket of tomato initially sold for between N4, 000 to N5, 000, currently sells for between N13, 000 to N15, 000; medium sized tuber of yam sold for N500 now N1, 200; 25 litres keg of palm oil from N9, 000 to N11, 000. This cuts across almost all categories of produce.

It was learnt that a bag of flour that sold N9, 000 before COVID-19, now goes for N13, 000, while a bag of sugar now costs N24, 000 as against the former price of N13, 000. Butter is now N12, 000 against N7, 500, while a bag of milk, which was N29, 000, now goes for N52, 000.

From all indications, chronic hunger and famine, arising from the rising cost of food crops and other agro commodities appear to be hitting many parts of the country, especially the low-income earners and the vulnerable, as the situation is becoming unbearable.

The threat posed by the food crisis compared to the huge interventions by the government over the years, is attracting the attention of stakeholders, as they begin to interrogate the impact of the huge investment of the sector.

Though the effect of last year’s flooding and incessant herders attacks were attributed to the lingering food crisis, farmers and other stakeholders’ claim the loans and other interventions were not properly disbursed.

While reports indicated that ‘political farmers’ majorly enjoyed some of the interventions, investigations showed that some beneficiaries failed to pay back.

Just last year, the Federal Government sued about 70,000 farmers in Kebbi State over failure to repay N17b loan they collected under the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP).

According to the chairman of Kebbi State chapter of Rice Farmer Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Muhammed Sahabi Augie, out of the 70,000 farmers that benefitted from the loans in 2015, only about 200 farmers settled their loan.

In 2018, the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) disclosed that the fund it disbursed to farmers totalling over N60b had not been paid back, and that it was on a recovery mission of disbursed funds.

Same year, the Kano State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna disclosed that only four farmers out of 4,500 farmers in the state who benefitted from revolving loans paid, which was affecting others wanting to apply for loans. Out of N950m loan released by the CBN to Kano State rice farmers, only a paltry N6m was paid back.