Covid-19 : Closure of hotels threatening our Business – Poultry Farmers

Nigeria Farmers in the poultry and fishery industries are lamenting the continued closure of hotels, drinking joints and other entertainment spots where their products are sold. They say the situation is threatening their business.

They also called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to revive the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme, an agricultural scheme that provided inputs for farmers up to the grassroots level at 50 per cent subsidised rate. The scheme was introduced by the former President Goodluck Jonathan.

They told our correspondent that unless something urgent was done about the food situation, hunger might be on the horizon.

The farmers said they had hoped that hotels and other hospitality businesses would be reopened after about two weeks of easing the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states, leading to gradual opening of certain industries.

The President, Integrated Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Aduragbemi Akinlami, noted that current Anchor Borrowers Programme was not as effective as the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme, which took holistic view at agriculture up to the grassroots level.

He said the GES scheme was introduced across the 36 states of the country, and it took care of all categories of farmers in sectors as crop and animal husbandry, fishery, piggery and poultry.

Akinlami said that was the only time farmers operating in all these sectors received some assistance from the government as it bore 50 per cent of all the inputs such as fertilizers, poultry feeds and fingerlings given to farmers.

He said, “Currently, many farmers are lamenting because their farm output is getting bad as the hotels, drinking joints and other hospitality businesses are not operating since the outbreak of coronavirus.

“Some of them have incurred losses. We are only hoping that with the gradual easing of the lockdown, which had allowed a section of the industries to open for business, it will soon get to the (turn of) hotels and others. We sell most of our products to the hotels and the drinking joints.

“This is the time that government should pay a critical attention to the agricultural sector, if indeed the country is serious in diversifying from oil to agriculture.”

He also said, “The Anchor Borrowers Programme is not as effective when compared to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Growth Enhancement Support Scheme under the former President Goodluck Jonathan. The GES scheme got to the farmers across value chains even at the grassroots level.

“The outcomes of such scheme could be measured in the abundance of food and protein entrenched in the economy. Though the Anchor Borrowers Programme had some merits as some of my friends had benefited from it, it is not as resulted-oriented and measurable as the GES scheme. Government needs to revive it through the Ministry of Agriculture, which superintended it then.”

The Ogun State Coordinator of IFAN, Mr Ibrahim Salami, equally punctured the ABP, arguing that the mechanism was faulty as many farmers recorded losses in the programme and some had backed out.

Salami, who said government reached them through the cooperative society, lamented that many times the inputs supplied were usually deficient which resulted in low-quality yield of their products.

He said, “Some members had backed out of the programme in the state due to losses they recorded. Some of the inputs given to us, as in feeds and fingerlings, were not the right ones; so the output would be affected.

“As farmers, we should be allowed to source our inputs where we feel we can get the right quality so as to get the right yield at the end of the day. We are not saying government should give us money; they should raise invoice which we can take to shops where we can collect feeds for our dishes and poultry products.”

The President of Lagos State Catfish and Allied Farmers Association, Mrs Nurat Atoba, also lamented that the lockdown came unexpectedly while many of them had stocked their ponds with fish.

She said, “Now, we are counting our losses. Most farmers have metric tons of fish on their farms but no buyers. Our major customers are hotels, restaurants, eateries, joints and caterers, among others, but the lockdown has affected their own business too. So there is no patronage.”

She said since the inception of the current administration at the federal level, the farmers had not really benefited tangible things from the government.

She said, “The last time we had the Federal Government intervention was during the time of Dr Akinkunmi Adesina as the Minister of Agriculture. We benefited from his Growth Enhancement Support Scheme.”

An agricultural expert, Mr Gbenga Owolabi, who knew about the GES scheme also called on the Federal Government to revive it.

He said, “The GES scheme was a good one as it penetrated the grassroots all over the country, and it touched all the agricultural sectors and value chains.

“Its outcomes were measurable as the telephone numbers of farmers, size of their farms and the locations were captured.”

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