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Short Rainy Season Leads to Food Shortage Fears in Northern Nigeria

Nigerian agronomists says low rain fall this year could mean food shortages in some northern Nigerian states, including; Jigawa, Kano, and Katsina. From Kano, Voice of America English to Africa reporter Isiyaku Ahmed says the rainy season usually runs from May to late October. This year it ran from June to late September – about two months shorter.

Dr. Hakeem Ageigbe is an agricultural scientist at the Kano station of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, or IITA. He says global warming has caused the change in climate patterns. And he says the low rate of rainfall this year means there may be food shortages in some areas:

“The main grains in the Sudan and Sahel will be affected. Millet, for example, will be affected. We are hoping sorghum will [would] at least benefit, because you can still plant late but the rain stopped early, so sorghum also will be affected [after all]. Also affected are legumes like the late maturing cowpea varieties, which is the most popular among farmers. Groundnuts are being affected. All of the indices [show] yields are very low, so prices will definitely go high, [and I] am concerned that we may have shortages of food this year."

For the next planting season in June, Dr. Ageigbe encourages farmers to use early yielding varieties of seed as well as ample fertilizers and insecticides. And he recommends that government and agricultural agencies pay the extra costs.

Saleh Salim is Kano State deputy chairman for All-Farmers Association of Nigeria. He agrees with Dr. Ageigbe that farmers should adopt new farming techniques to ensure improved harvests:

"We usually educate our farmers that they should go for early yielding varieties because of these kinds of expectations. Some farmers really have cropped the early variety and have harvested, but you know, typically, our people are traditional farmers. They grow their own seeds for the next season."

Salim also says government can help reduce the effects of potential food shortages by buying the commodities directly from farmers and storing them in silos. Later, if shortages do indeed appear, the grains can then be sold at low prices, and food prices will remain affordable.

The largest market for cereals in West Africa is called Dawanau International Grain Market, and it’s in the Dawakin Tofa Local Government area of Kano State.

Mallam Ahmed Imam is executive secretary of Dawanau Market Development Association. He says the low rainfall coupled with the rumors of food shortages has affected the prices of some commodities. He describes the recent price of a mudu – a unit of maize equaling about 1.13 kilograms:

A mudu we are selling for 70 naira or 80 naira has rose [up] to 100 naira per mudu. [Meanwhile] maize which, sold last three [or] four weeks ago at the rate of 2,700 has rose [up] to 3,000 naira. This is the [small] difference, and the commodities are available in the market. There’s a little difference now because of the fears of the people.

Imam says the market has enough grain stocks to last for two years and if the price patterns persist, the market authority will bring out the old stock to cushion the effect.

He says the government should begin an early awareness campaign designed to prevent grain hoarding and quell rumors of food shortages.

A recent price survey conducted in the market reveals prices moving slightly upward. For example, in the last three weeks, a hundred kilos of maize cost 2,700 naira, or about $21 dollars. Now it’s 3,300 naira, or about $26 dollars. In the past, a kilo of cowpeas cost 4,500 naira, or $35 dollars but it’s 5,000 naira, or about $40 dollars. The small difference was caused by low rainfall, the subsequent poor harvest, and fears of possible food shortages. But food is still affordable for the average person.

Also, the slightly higher prices have helped farmers; even though the harvest was smaller, they were paid more for their crops.