Alhaji Mohammed Badaru Abubakar is the governor of Jigawa State North Western Nigeria. In this interview with Correspondents, he gave an uncommon insight into the state’s agricultural transformation blueprint and his vision to put his state in global map of agriculture in the near future. Excerpts:
There is a statistics released by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on the production of rice by the participating states, but from what we have seen on ground, it appears the statistics was not properly collated on Jigawa State, what could be the reason?
I have gone through that statistic personally and I disagree with the figures.
What we have here in Jigawa state is far beyond the statistics released. If they give you a statistics, ask them, how many hectares do they put under cultivation in Jigawa, and what is the average yield?
When you input the data you will realize there would be different from the figures the statistics they provided. We try as much as possible not to over project the production because we work based on a realistic projection. This is a national issue and it has to do with the national planning, therefore, if you give a very high figure and it turns out to be less, then it would distort the statistics. So it is better to give a very realistic figure that you know you would certainly achieve. Again, how the ministry of Agric. does its statistics I don’t know because they have not visited us in Jigawa state and our farmers to see what is on the ground. But luckily, you (select Agric correspondents) are here, you have seen things for yourselves and you would be able to tell them what we are doing. This is dry season, when the raining season began; our production capacity will be more than five times what have seen now. Now, this rainy season, you will see over five times what we are produced in dry season. During this rainy season, we are expected to have over 400,000 hectares under cultivation, so we expect a minimum yield of five tons per hectare on the dry season while we expect four tones per hectares on the rainy season because we have no control over the rain and yield are not usually good. This is the best in the country, there are figures we have out there where people say they have seen eight tons per hectare but that is not the average.
We had instance where we have eight, nine and ten tons per hectare in specific field and in most of our clusters, we get as much as 7 or 7.5 per hectare, but when you take general farmers’ average; those that have done good practice and those that have not done good practice, you average five tons at the dry season and four at the rainy season. When we came in two years back, it was 2.5 tones average yield. But now because of the clusters, because of a lot of enlightenment and provision of fertilizer by the federal government at a discount rate, we are moving to about four tones per hectares. A lot of farmers are doing six, seven and eight while some are still doing 2.5 tons per hectare.
But when you take the overall average, and take the numbers, you will see that 100,000 by 5 hectares would give you 500,000 tons and when you take 411 by 4, it’s about 1600 tones and if you add up it would give you about 2,100,000 tones. So that is the production capacity we expect but if somebody ask us we tell him we expect two million because we have to give you the correct statistics. In some state, I know they would tell you farmers are doing seven tons and they would compute the numbers by the seven hectares which is the maximum yield production. When you take the general average, there are farmers that would just plant and would not have money to buy fertilizer, it would just grow without yielding much, such farmers would not get more than one tone per hectare but then the area would be marked as being cultivated. Therefore, where you are projecting, get the average accurately. We should be able to give the federal government accurate statistics so that the planning would be done well and there would not be shortage of rice, at the same time the price mechanism can be checked based on the production, and it has to be presented correctly.
The issue of rice smuggling is one of the biggest challenges that discourage farmers in Nigeria; having invested so much on rice production in Jigawa state, what do you think the federal government can do to address the problem?
First and foremost, the major target is for rice production to be competitive that is what is very important. If we are not competitive, no matter what mechanism we put around our borders, rice smuggling would persist. We have to produce rice competitively so that the consumers would buy the rice at cheap rate and that would
discourage smuggling. Of course we know there is substandard rice being smuggled some are expired and we also know that some of the countries subsidized agriculture and that makes the price of rice cheap thereby attracting smugglers.
I believe the states are willing and able to support the federal government in combating smuggling because all across the border lines we have communities and the communities would provide us with information in what is happening on the border towns and that would discourage smuggling. Also, the issue of branding, we would try to see how best we can brand our rice adequately and there would be a market control to know the market that is not Nigerian made.
I believe we would do all within our powers to support the federal government to stop smuggling, at this initial stage that we are, if smuggling is allowed to continue, it would discourage our farmers, it would discourage our millers and then the whole rice revolution would be thwarted. But I believe in the next two years Nigeria would become more competitive in rice production and smuggling itself would reduce and the government would be able to control substandard rice especially those coming from the subsidized countries which is easier to control if we have some competitive elements in the production chain. That is what we are targeting and that is what the government is doing to see that we make rice farming competitive. The fertilizer price has already been reduced; we are working with the best companies that would produce insecticides so that it would also be controlled locally. The same thing applies with the equipment for mechanization to see how best we can partner to produce the machines locally. If we do this, the cost of production would reduce drastically. We are introducing solar irrigation water pump system that would be used to pump water in dry season; this would reduce the cost of buying fuel and would in turn reduce the cost of production.
In most states like Jigawa where we have the cluster approach, we support the farmers with inputs and we buy in bulk. We do all these things to systematically reduce the cost of production and encourage more farmers’ participation so that they would spend less and still produce more.
I have just told you that we have moved from producing 2.5 tons per hectare to an average of 5 tons per hectare with some clusters doing 9 tons per hectare. I believe the world average is about 7.5 per tones and in the next two years we would be able to reach that average. We know some rice farmers in China and Brazil are doing about 12 tons per hectare, that is the competition and we would certainly get there as we continue to support our farmers. Having improved production we would be able to produce competitively having an average of 8 to 9 tons per hectare, we could then beat our chest and say yes we would be able to compete with whoever is producing rice
in the world. If we are able to achieve this, then the cost of rice would go down, the farmers would make more money and then we would be able to be competitive and the whole business would be favorable.
What about Wheat production, what is the capacity of the state?
In wheat production we are currently doing 40,000 hectare with an average of 2.5 tons per hectare that gives about 100,000 tons in the last season. But now we are working on different varieties to boost
the yield and increase production. What we are doing as government is to provide modalities to seeing to reduce the cost of inputs for farmers. In the Ringim area, the wheat production is very high but in some areas like Dutse the production is poor.
However, there were issues also with the quality of seeds last year and this affected most states that are producing wheat. We are working very hard to ensure that the problem is solved by providing farmers with improved seed variety. This is will be better and the production would be higher and better. But approximately we produced between 80,000 to 100,000 tons of wheat this year.
Is there any collaboration with offtakers to encourage the farmers?
Certainly we do have off-takers; the flour mill of Nigerian and the association of flour mill of Nigeria are the off takers, they are in Jigawa already and they have bought off a reasonable tonnage of wheat this year.
What about the price, does the state government agree with the off takers on a fixed price?
Definitely, we agree on a price with the off-takers. We agreed at N18,000 per bag but it is also very difficult for us to reach an acceptable agreement at the negotiating table because the price of the seed last year was N32,000 per bag. Now the farmers had to sell the grain at N18,000 whereas they bought the seed at a very exorbitant price therefore they see the difference as being too much. When they started harvesting the price was at N25,000 then it fall to N15,000 and we have to intervene to fix it between N18,000 and N19,000.
How much did you say the state government invested in rice and wheat production within the two years of your administration?
What we do is to give loans to farmers or the cluster approach that we do.
Approximately we have invested N3 billion in this programme so far. But there is also the anchor borrowers’ programme that is ongoing, which also cost us about N500 million; Jigawa state government has invested over N2.5 billion in this agricultural programme. But if you look at the whole value chain including support to empower women in agriculture, support to empower youth with agro processing and agro mechanical implements for the whole value chain, we spent close to N5 billion in the total package for agriculture.
But the good news is that we are recovering and investing back most of it.
For the rice, initially they used what was called logistical but now we have bought motorized harvesters and distribute to the farmers to use as empowerment tool and this has added as service provider for the farmers. These do two things; it has reduced the cost of production; it is faster and helps the youth to be empowered. We also brought in threshers because they were using drums but now we have supplied the youth with threshers. This has also created job for the youth and reduce the cost of processing for the farmers. Initially if you have to spend N1000 but now you probably do the same job with N500 you can do the same job faster and cheaper.
We also introduced pest control and we trained youth on how to control pest. We trained two persons per every political ward and we also plan to train another set of two persons per political ward on crop protection so that when there is any pest infestation the farmers would notify them and they would serve as service providers to the farmers by spraying the farm and providing any technical support for the farmers.
We also have state government’s trained extension workers, one per ward and around 250 of them are moving per cluster zone to check what is happening in the farm. All the people we have trained, we provided with the needed tools and support to carry out their work effectively. We also provided small scale rice processing mill to the women group so as to add as service providers to the farmers. The farmers don’t have to sell their paddy and buy the rice that they would eat, now they can mill their paddy rice and eat. We also trained youth on paddy dealing; they buy paddy from the farmers from nooks and crannies and act as suppliers to rice mills. So, that also created jobs and help the farmers to sell their produce without difficulty.
We are also working with the rice millers to train youth to buy for instance, 50 bags from the millers in company price and sell it at a retail price in the value chain development. We succeeded in helping the farmers to reduce cost of production and engaged the youth to provide support services to the farmers. In addition, we have also trained some mechanics on the repair of the tractors, harvesters, threshers and we gave them wielding tools and motorcycles and other tools to enable them to move around to provide services to the farm clusters. These gestures have helped the farmers and make the work very attractive for both women and youth, and have created many jobs.
The federal government said army worm has infested some farms across the country and it will cost about N2.5 billion to address the problem. What are you doing to see that Jigawa state is not affected by this infestation?
What we do is that, when we heard the report that there was army worm in Kenya destroying maize farms, we raised the alarm. Jigawa state was among the first states that write to the federal government to calling their attention to the impending infestation. So we have been watching out in our stage already, we have stocked in agro chemicals to curtail the army worm infestation any time any day but up till now I have not seen any report on army worms. We don’t farm much maize in Jigawa state because it is not our area of our comparative advantage but we are well prepared to tackle any sort of pest.
Again, the 574 youth we trained on pest control are working, I am sure the moment they see any symptom they would raise the alarm because they would have to provide service to the farmers and make money from it. What we do in case of any emergency, for instance, last year when we had flood in so many areas, we took the farmers and trained them on some residual crops after the flood we supported with cowpea seed and they planted again immediately and they made good harvest from it and made good money. Also, last year, around Taura area, there was an issue of infestation in sesame seed, and we did the same intervention by supporting them with other crops after harvest, which they planted immediately and that helped the farmers to reduce the lost.
With what we have seen on ground, we commend your good leadership. How did you come about this inspiration?
Jigawa state government is not unaware of the global trade and economic challenges confronting many countries.
The development in technology today in affecting global oil price from 2013 to 2014 there was a little glut of about two million barrel per day and that created and generated the crash in oil prices from over $100 per barrel to $27 per barrel and we know very well the possibility of oil price returning to $100 per barrel is near zero.
Solar technology is gradually taking over the functions of oil; solar batteries, solar cars, solar machines and renewable energy are also taking its place in the technology world and these are becoming cheaper.
The electrical cars have more luxury and faster, they also drive longer and they are charged only once per day. Recently, it was announced that the electric cars have taken over the American market and are sold much than the conventional cars. So with all these innovations in the world, Jigawa state is in a position to move in line with the current trend. With these developments, we now know that the future of oil is over, therefore, we have to create a sustainable economic future for the state and indeed for the country.
In doing that we have to look at the things we have comparative advantage and that is agriculture because we have vast arable land and water body and then we have to find out how we can create agriculture value chain to boost the local economy and also broaden the tax base of the state.
So that is what drives us to agriculture and to do it successfully we have to do it very competitive. Today in Jigawa, we are not looking at rice production comparing ourselves with Kano or Kebbi, we are looking at Thailand, America, and what Chinese and Brazil are doing. Today we have rice variety from China and Brazil on trial in the stage to see how we can improve our competitiveness. Today we
are not looking at Nasarawa on sesame seed production we are looking at Ethiopia and we want to compete international and globally. That is our focus on agriculture revolution in Jigawa state.