Sokoto/Jos/Jalingo/Abuja/Lokoja/Minna/Kebbi — As farming continues across Nigeria with early planters' crops approaching maturity, farmers are yet to get any of the subisdized fertilizer they are supposed to get from the federal government thereby forcing some of them to settle for organic fertilizer. A cross section of farmers that spoke to Daily Trust in several states of the federation say they are yet to get any of the controversial 10 million phones for farmers that was estimated to cost N60 billion.
In Sokoto, many of the farmers say they are yet to get fertilizer from the federal government's GES programme.
Secretary, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Sokoto State, Kabiru Aliyu said, "We registered for the programme, but we are yet to be given fertilizer. We discovered that some people who were not registered have been given."
He called on the federal government to always ensure that targeted people are the actual beneficiaries of such programmes.
On the phones government promised to distribute to farmers, he also said they have not received any.
The price of a bag of fertilizer at the open market is between N4,000 and N5,000.
Most of the farmers who spoke with our correspondent in Ilorin confirmed that they are yet to get fertilizer either from the federal or state government.
Daily Trust, however, gathered that since government is not forthcoming, many farmers are now settling for organic fertilizer procured at the rate of N1,200 and N1,500 per bag.
Last year, the government distributed the commodity to farmers at a subsidized rate of N2,500 per bag but the farmers lamented that they are in the dark on government's plan for the year, especially when the rain has finally sets in. It was gathered that a bag of inorganic fertilizer is sold at the rate of N5,300 to N5, 800 at the open market
The chairman of AFAN in Kwara State, Alhaji Hassan Abdullahi, confirmed that they are yet to get fertilizer from government and lamented the delay in the distribution of the commodity. He disclosed that at least 65 per cent of farmers, which cut across the 16 local government areas of the state have registered in anticipation of fertilizer but they are not sure when they are going to get the items.
Also speaking, the Secretary of Youth Farmers' Association, Mr. Kehinde Osasona, who also confirmed that they are yet to receive the commodity, expressed dismay that fertilizer often ended up in the hands of "political farmers" who after getting it from government sell at higher prices to the real farmers.
"Majority of farmers are on the verge of settling for inorganic fertilizer instead of relying on government supply since we are not sure of when we are to get it from government. So, most of the farmers are settling for inorganic fertilizer made of leafy materials and at times animal waste because we apply fertilizer during pre-planting operation. So, we cannot continue to rely on government fertilizer which is not forthcoming", he said.
In Kogi State, farmers are yet to get fertilizers through the Growth Enhancement System (GES) of the federal government which is supposed to make the commodity available to farmers across the country.
A farmer in the state, Dr Tunde Oransaya, said the second phase of the registration of farmers for the scheme in state was concluded last week, saying that over 50,000 farmers have been captured in the state so far.
Daily Trust gathered that 50kg NPK fertilizer is sold at N5,800 while 50kg Urea fertilizer cost N5,200 in the open market.
Daily Trust correspondent in Niger State found that farmers in the state are no longer confident that the federal government's Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) will work considering the fact that activities for this year's farming season have since begun but distribution of fertilizer under the programme is yet to take off.
One of the farmers on the programme, Nuhu Danyaya Aliyu said that right from inception the programme was not conceived to succeed, saying he was at the registration centre for under the programme in his ward in Kontagora, headquarters of Kontagora LGA four times but on each occasion there was nobody to attend to him at the centre.
He lamented that when he made a formal complaint to the councillor of his ward over the absence of the enumerators at the centre, he was only told that the officials would soon resume and that he would get registered but that to date he has not been registered.
Aliyu further added that if they could not be registered as directed, then it became glaring that the much talked about distribution of handsets through which farmers were expected to access fertilizer this year will be a mirage.
He said even last year when he was fully registered, he got only a bag of fertilizer which, he said, was grossly inadequate despite the fact that he is a small farmer, arguing that if the trait of unavailability of fertilizer continued unchecked the country is heading for famine.
On market prices of fertilizer in his area, Aliyu said a bag of fertilizer cost between N5,000 and N5,500 adding that those that could not afford a bag bought in measures (mudu) which cost between N200 to N300.
When contacted on the scheme, state chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Umar Aliyu, said registration under GES programme was ongoing as more forms were made available to farmers by the federal government.
He said the price of fertilizer per bag across the state was in the range of N5,000 to N6000 depending on the company that manufactured the product.
The case is not different in Kebbi State. Alhaji Usman Muhammad Dan'inna, a farmer in Bahago in Zuru Local Government Area told Daily Trust in his farm that, "the phone number that was registered in my name was duplicated to another person in Katsina who refused to turn up the code number after several calls and pleas.
"Last year, I managed to get two bags of the fertilizer at the cost of N3,000 and a bag of corn. My farmland is over 10 hectares, so how do you expect me to continue to wait in vain for government fertilizer? So,I have no choice than to buy in the market at the cost of N5,000 instead of waiting in vain for the so-called government supply at N1,700 but which is not there."
He said that why he resorted to farming groundnut that does not need much of fertilizer and little of corn, rice and millet that need more fertilizer.
"This is the right time in the month of May when we are supposed to start getting fertilizer from the federal government's GES programme, but up till now, we are yet to get any. It will be too late and of no use to farmers by August.
"In fact, I had to re-sell the two bags I got last year because it came very late during the farming season.
"Prayer is the only solution to the problem because even the distribution at the local governments only worsens the situation," he said.
A 40-year-old farmer, Mallam Rabiu Aliyu, who has been farming for over 17 years in Badariya area of Birnin Kebbi Local Government said, "The fertilizer was distributed last year but most of us did not get it.
"We were told to expect three bags of the fertilizer will be sold to each farmer at government controlled prize of N1, 500 per bag. The three bags is said to be accompanied with a free bag of rice seedlings and pest control chemicals that is expected to also serve as fertilizer.
"Even at that, the three bags cannot be enough to apply to the 20 hectare of my farmland.
"Each bag of the fertilizer sells for between N4,500 to N5,000 in the market and farmers have no choice that to buy at that rate," he said.
In Jos, farmers said although fertilizer which is a significant input expected to be supplied through the scheme should have arrived by February or March for this year's wet season farming, it is yet to be seen.
"Those implementing the programme came to carry out registration of farmers early last month for the 2013 farming season, so we don't know right now when fertilizer will come although it is already very late for wet season farming," Jos North chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Sako Danboyi told Daily Trust.
The Growth Enhancement Support Scheme started in Plateau State last year when fertilizer was supplied in September, clearly an off-season intervention for wet season farming when most farmers need fertilizer, and supplied at well below the needs of farmers. Danboyi explained, "I got the phone message for my fertilizer allocation on August 31, 2012 but I didn't get the fertilizer until two weeks later. I got two bags, like every other farmer. For many of us, what is two bags of fertilizer each?
"Part of the problem of GES is that many of our members have no phone," Danboyi said.
Asked about the promise of phones as component of GES, he said, "We heard from unofficial sources that a phone is supposed to be part of the scheme, but we've not seen that yet."
According to another Plateau farmer, Mohammed Fodio, GES is a good programme being badly implemented. Fodio who, incidentally, is the Jos North Secretary of AFAN said there is a huge difference in price of fertilizer supplied through GES and fertilizer in the open market.
"Fertilizer from GES last year was N2,500 and that was when fertilizer was going for between N5000 and N5500," Fodio recalled.
The farmers do not know how much the product will cost from GES this year as the government is yet to make it available, but the market price of fertilizer in Plateau State is currently between N6,000 and N6,500.
As this year's farming season begins, farmers in Taraba State said they are yet to get the GES fertilizers from the federal government to apply on their crops.
A farmer in Takum Local Government Area, Samuel Tortee complained that farmers in the area are yet to get subsidised fertilizers and other agro-allied chemicals from the government.
He said that most farmers buy fertilizers and other chemicals from the open market as they could hardly depend on the one supplied by the government.
Another farmer in Jalingo, Paul Gaza, said many farmers were registered by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in the state this year and they had expected the distribution of fertilizers before now, but nothing seems to be happening yet.
He said that farmers are yet to get the much talked about phones which the minister of agriculture promised farmers.
According to him, farmers need fertilizers to apply on their crops especially yams, maize and rice between now and latest July, adding that anything from August and beyond, fertilizers would no longer be useful to them.
He lamented that government most times supply fertilizers around September and October when they will not be useful to farmers.
Gaza said that farmers spend as much as N6,000 to purchase a bag of fertilizer at the open market.
However, the Special Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Olukayode Oyeleye, has explained that the delay in the distribution of the fertilizer is because the ministry wants to address the problems encountered in the scheme last year and to also avoid diversion of the commodity.
He said the distribution will soon start, though he could not give a date for it.
On the 10 millions phones for farmers, the minister's aide said the programme, which is grossly misunderstood, is on course. But he couldn't tell when the phones would be distributed or how much they would cost.
He said when the minister visited Suru, a rice farming community in Kebbi State, the need for mobile phones for farmers became more glaring.