The All Farmers Association of Nigeria has appealed to the Federal Government to compensate farmers for losses recorded during the implementation of the Central Bank of Nigeria naira redesign and subsequent cash crunch.
The farmers made the plea in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Lagos while reviewing the impact of the policy on food production and agribusiness.
They said that the compensation became necessary to encourage farmers to return to the farms.
The farmers said the compensation could be inform of grants, inputs, fertiliser and farm implements.
They added that it would enable them to meet the food production target already set for 2023.
Dr Femi Oke, AFAN’s Chairman Lagos and South-West Zone, said a lot of their members were affected during the implementation of the policy, thereby disrupting farming activities.
According to Oke, the cashless policy and naira redesign policy of the Federal Government in February affected farmers seriously.
“From what we have seen and heard so far, the loss recorded during the period is huge and on the high side, especially for our members that are into livestock, poultry and piggery and processors.
“If we are to quantify these losses, it runs into billions of naira that we have lost during this period.
“The poultry farmers were the most affected, it was just like the period of the COVID-19 which we experienced in 2020. We pray never to have a repeat of the COVID-19 again because it was a great loss.
“We also discovered that many farmers could not pay their labourers and this became a huge problem.
“Majority of the farms are situated in the rural areas where there is little or no presence of commercial banks so they had to travel long distance and spend more money in order to buy naira from Point-of-Sale operators to pay the farm workers,” he said.
Oke said it was a great problem because many of the farm workers rely on daily payment because they don’t have bank accounts.
“Many farmers could also not transport their farm produce such as pepper, vegetable and other perishable items to the market due to lack of cash and patronage from customers.
“The situation led to loss of farm produce right before the eyes of the farmers. It was a sad sight to behold.
“There’s nothing more agonising, discouraging and painful than watching your farm produce and hard work go to waste without any solution,” he noted.
Oke urged the FG to compensate for all these losses caused by the ill-timed policy.
“We want the Federal government to take action by assisting us with grants with interest rate as low as five per cent.
“Giving us grant is one way to solve these mirages of problems affecting food production now,” he added.
Oke urged the CBN to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and AFAN on policy formulation and information dissemination to farmers.
“We have said it times without number that the CBN should not be dealing or dictating to farmers directly.
“CBN should work with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the umbrella body of farmers, which is AFAN, on issues affecting farmers.
“CBN should desist from dealing directly with them to avoid misinformation and misrepresentation,” he said.
Oke, however, urged farmers not to relent or be discouraged by recent happenings in the economy but to go back to the farms and support government policies to boost food production and self-sufficiency.
“Be rest assured that the incoming government will do a lot for farmers,” he added.
Also speaking, Mrs Adewunmi Malik-Adeola, a livestock and crop farmer, urged the FG and CBN to engage farmers in future to prevent needless losses recorded during the implementation of the naira redesign policy.
Malik-Adeola noted that there was poor information about the policy in the rural areas where majority of the farmers reside.
She lamented that information on the policy’s modalities, take off and implementation was not available.
She added that concerned stakeholders must be educated on government policies to prevent loss of investment which could lead to sickness or even death.
“We are stakeholders and we need to be carried along whenever a new policy is been introduced.
“One of the reasons why the programme failed was due to lack of information and how farmers and the general public can prepare ahead.
“It really destroyed a lot of our farming activities during the period, especially the livestock, our birds and eggs.
“It came as a shock to everyone because this is something we have never experienced in the history of this country.
“The damage had been done; government must look for how to compensate us for all our losses.
Government should release money for us to meetup with demand, we need financial assistance, inputs and grants,” she said.
Mrs Abimbola Francis-Fagoyinbo, Secretary, AFAN in Lagos, described the impact of policy on her business as devastating.
Francis-Fagoyinbo, a cassava processor and packaging farmer, said that a lot of her produce were destroyed due to poor sale.
She urged the government to come up with programmes that would ameliorate the damage in the sector.
“Right now, as I speak, some of our farmers in the farm are calling me that the garri they have processed there’s nobody to buy it and the ones they have lost they cannot recover the money.
“There is no sale and transportation; the cashless policy of the Federal Government really affected farmers.
“As a cassava farmer, whether you like it or not, once it is time to harvest your cassava, you must harvest it, you cannot not leave it longer than necessary or else, you will lose it.
We are looking at our market on the ground and we are not selling them and they are going bad because we cannot keep garri for too long,” she lamented.
Francis-Fagoyinbo said that the price of garri had increased due to the naira redesign policy.
“Smallholder farmers rely on the profit they make on their produce and turn it over.
“We also paid a lot to manual workers on our farms, we have to buy money to pay them cash because they don’t accept monetary transfer.
“At the end of the day, everything was a waste, what we paid double for, we could not sell them.
“Right now, the price of garri is going up and not coming down because they have made great losses in the past.
“We were buying money to operate our farms so it has affected us.
“Right now, the Federal Government should come up with a programme that will at least assist the farmers.
“Government should empower us with inputs, chemicals, fertilisers and tools,” she said.
Mrs Latifat Ajani, a fishery and crop farmer, said the policy and its implementatiom should be properly studied before reintroducing it.
“It was a very serious issue for my family and I. There was no business or market during the period and I lost some of my fish in the process because fish cannot stay long.
“I was able to survive through the help of my children, there was no sale, my money was trapped with customers and in the banks.
“It was not a good experience for me because I could not buy feeds to feed the fish, transfer was not going through, everything was a disaster. So, I lost many of my investment in the process.
“Government need to support and compensate us for all our losses,” she said.