Farmers and stakeholders in agriculture in some states of the North-West have advised the Federal Government to lease all its existing grain silos in the zone for better management and utilisation.
A News Agency of Nigeria nation-wide survey on the state of silos in the country reveals that the few grain silos in the zone are not being properly utilised by the government, while farmers seek for modern storage facilities to preserve their farm produce.
The Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) planned to concession 23 Grain Silos across the country out of the 33.
The Federal Government in 2018 approved the concession of the 20, which it claimed will earn a whopping N6billion in the 10-year period of the first instance.
However, the ICRC in its website said the project, which started in 2014 is being handled by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, it will involve 23 states with the Federal Capital Territory.
The states are Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Federal Capital Territory , Anambra, Ebonyi , Kano, Ogun, Zamfara, Cross River, Kwara, Benue, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kebbi, Taraba.
In Katsina, an official of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Salisu Sule, said that the state had only one grains silo with a capacity of storing 25,000 metric tonnes.
According to Sule, the facility currently has some grains stored by the Federal Government, which must be disposed of before they are spoilt by the heat.
He said that the silo, located in Dutsinma Local Government area of the state, had maize and guinea corn reserves began operation in 2017.
“I’m not aware of any move to concession it. But for now, it is being properly utilised.
“I however call on the Federal Government to make use of the grains in it to avoid damage, in view of the excessive heat being experienced in the state.”
Sule said that except for a problem with the offloading machine and power supply, the facility was in good condition and very secured.
The coordinator said that the chemicals used to treat the grains were not harmful to humans as their efficacy could be destroyed once the grains were dissolved in water.
In Kebbi, however, the only grains silo owned by the Federal Government had been concession to a private firm.
Also, the Permanent Secretary, state Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Lawal Shehu, said that the ministry was only aware of the concession of the silos, adding that it had no knowledge of the private company handling.
“I can only tell you that we have our silo here in the state and is 1,000 metric tonnes capacity; as for the Federal Government- owned silo, we are only aware it on concession, we don’t know who it was given to,” he said.
The state Secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Alhaji Muhammad Idris, expressed dismay over the concession of the silos to a private company in spite of persistent requests by the association to be allowed to run it.
He said that the previous government in collaboration with AFAN used to store N2 billion worth of grains in the silo.
“We are not happy with the concession of the silo; the place is now private, and private companies are not doing venture for the sake of common farmers like us rather for business and profit making.
“We have challenges now in storing our grains and this is the only one we have with that capacity of storing millions of bags of grains in the state,” he added.
Idris said the state government used to store the grains and sell it to the poor at subsidised rate during the dry season.
The state Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Sahabi Augie, welcomed the idea of concession of the silos to private individuals.
“The rice farmers here cannot take it, it is too big for them and have no means and wherewithal to manage it, but the private individuals can.”
Meanwhile, AFAN in Kano State has advised the Federal Government to lease the three silos in the state to farmers’ groups to ensure their effective management.
The AFAN Chairman in Kano, Alhaji Faruk Rabi’u, said that the advice was necessary to enable farmers in the areas where the silos were located to make the best use of the facilities.
He lamented that in spite of several requests by some commodity associations in the state to secure the lease of the facilities, the government was yet to respond.
“At the moment, there are four grains silos located at Gaya, Kwanar Dawaki, Zawachiki and Minjibir.
“Three of the silos are owned by the Federal Government and they are not being used, while the remaining one is owned by a private individual and it is the only one that is being used,” the AFAN secretary said.
He said that if the facilities were leased to farmer groups, they could work with collateral managers to manage the facilities.
“Instead of leaving the silos to waste away, the government can lease them to farmers groups, which means it will be private driven, but allow the government to generate revenue.
“Collateral managers can give certificate to farmers groups to enable commercial banks give them loans,” Rabi’u said.
Rabi’u called on the Federal Government to encourage individuals to establish silos across the country for proper storage of agricultural products.
“The government can also build the silos and give them to farmers to manage,” he added.
Muhammad Adamu, the Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Kano, told NNN that there was a plan for the concession of all the facilities by the ministry, but was not in a position to give details on the execution of the plan.
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