Stakeholders in agriculture in the South-South region have lamented the adverse effect of rainfall on the 2021 harvest, saying it has resulted in poor yield.
The stakeholders expressed their concern in a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) across the states in the region.
The respondents feared that the situation could lead to high cost of staple food.
Mr Emmanuel Ekene, Chairman, Cassava Growers Association in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers said persistent rainfall ravaged farmlands in the state in 2021.
Ekene said that farmers in Etche suffered higher flood impact and it led to increased loss of farm output.
“The farm settlement of Okarafor in Etche area was submerged in flood with attendant loss of farm produce especially cassava and other tuber crops.
“Other crops that were largely affected were plantain, banana, and even some tree crops like oil palm.
“Iguruta, Chokocho Olakwo and Okehi down to Igbodo area, all faced massive flooding challenge this year.
“Some farmlands were swept off by erosion and this has basically affected the cost of garri which is a cassava byproduct.
“Currently, a basin of garri is N7,000; the same quantity that was sold for N4,000 last year.
“Sadly, this may lead to a continued hike in cost of food as farmers no longer have cassava stems for the next planting season,” he said.
Ekene called on government to support local farmers in Rivers with farm inputs to cushion the effect of flood on their farm investments.
In Bayelsa, majority of the farmers said that heavy rainfall destroyed their farmlands and animals during the 2021 season.
Mrs Eunice Ebipado from Onopa community in Yenagoa Local Government Area said that rain destroyed her crops such as cassava and led her into harvesting them too early.
Ebipado said that the early harvest affected the price of the products as she sold them at cheaper rates in the market.
She said that prices of food items in Bayelsa had gone up because of poor yield caused by constant rainfall.
Another farmer, Mrs Judith Kwokwo said the price of garri, one of the common food in Bayelsa, had gone up because of early harvest of cassava for fear of rain and flooding.
Kwokwo however, said constant rain was good for rice farming in Bayelsa as it made the crop grew faster.
She nonetheless said that too much of it could destroy the farm or make the plant to rot before harvest.
Another respondent, Chief Silvanus Ejezie, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Delta chapter, said delayed rainfall earlier in the season, impacted negatively on food production in the state.
Ejezie told NAN in Asaba that most crops suffered setbacks in the state due to drought earlier in the year.
He said that most farmers had expected early rainfall and in their effort to avert the impact of flooding engaged in early planting of crops but were disappointed as the rains were delayed.
According to Ejezie, farmers, particularly rice farmers, expect early and heavy rainfall and have taken to early land preparation and planting to ensure early harvest.
“Unfortunately, after we have planted the crops, the rains were delayed and did not come again until May/June in parts of the state.
“The impact on our crops was devastating as most of the crops died, thereby resulting in poor harvest and production. This cannot in anyway be said to be a bumper harvest,” he lamented.
On high cost of food items, the farmer attributed it to other factors than the rains, adding that most commercial farmers had ways of reducing the impact of droughts, using irrigation.
“Our major challenge is the cost of inputs like fertiliser and chemicals. As we speak, the herbicides we used to buy for N2,000 is now N4,000 and above,” Ejezie said.
Meanwhile, an agro industry and value chain expert, Dr Chijioke Osuji, says the major challenge of harvest in the nation is not rainfall but preservation of the harvest while it continues to rain.
Osuji said because farmers had no commercial and mechanised drying system, they relied on the sun for drying and during prolonged rain they encountered losses as the harvest grew moulds and got infected.
“This year, I know a lot of farmers are finding it hard to harvest because of the rains and the fact that they harvest manually.
“Whenever they manage to harvest, the produce drip water. I have to call them to keep turning them where they are stored to prevent moulds.
“For a plant like rice, if the rain persists, it will do well but not for yam as it likes a lot of air in the soil which can be displaced by excess water.
“However, the problem for rice is that you need mechanised reapers, threshers and driers so that with little sun, you can quickly harvest, thresh and dry and not wait until you see the sun,” he explained.
The expert noted that Nigerian farmers needed to be climate smart and build into their resilience, the fact that the weather could be inconsistent.
According to him, this is where the services of the meteorological agency comes into play to assist them.
“For different states and localities, the meteorological agency should be able to provide zonal specific forecasts.
“This will enable farmers in those areas to know what to do or the kind of agricultural practice to engage in.
“There is need for synergy between the the meteorological agency and the Ministry of Agriculture. The provision of extension services for the farmers to thrive is necessary,” Osuji said.
Also, Mr Nathaniel Ellem, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Cross River chapter said the rainfall pattern was affecting bumper harvest.
”For us that plant yam, we do not need excess water in the ground otherwise the yams will get rotten.
“I think the meteorological agency should tell us why the rains are still persistent when we are approaching the middle of November,” Ellem said.
But, Dr. Iwara Bassey, state coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development says continual rain is bad for rice farmers who have harvested and are awaiting threshing.
Bassey said a large amount of the crop would be swept away while others would start to germinate, reducing seed quality.
He however added that farmers who planted tree crops around August, might be disappointed because many of the crops would fail if the dry season set in early.
Bassey said that prolonged rainfall was quite beneficial for such crops as it helped them establish firmly before the dry season.
“In Cross River, depending on the type of crop planted, some people celebrate the prolonged rainfall while others want the rain to stop,” he noted.
For the Permanent Secretary, Edo Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Peter Aikhuomobhogbe, increasing rainfall was a blessing to farmers in the state.
Aikhuomobhogbe told NAN in Benin that the 2021 yield would be very good as a result of rainfall.
“The rain pattern has been unprecedented; we have had rain every month begining from March this year.
“For me, it is a blessing. In oil palm, the difference between here and Malaysia is that they have rainfall all over the year and that increases their yield.
“For us, our yield is not comparable to theirs but this year our yield will be high because of the rain that is well distributed all over the year.
“Those of us that planted maize in August will also have good yield because there is enough rain and the yield will be very high for maize, ditto for beans, cowpea and cassava,” he said.
According to Aikhuomobhogbe, there will be bumper harvest in 2021 as cassava requires three months of good rainfall for it to establish its root to fill up as it grows during the dry season.
“For those who are planting now, there is enough rain; so it is a win-win situation for everyone,” he added.
Aikhuomobhogbe explained that the rainfall was an advantage to dry season farming because farmers would have to pump less water.
For the Chairman, Grassroots Farmers Association of Niger-Delta, Edo chapter, Chief Emmanuel Odigie, Edo would be the hub of agricultural produce in Nigeria by 2022.
“The rain has not badly affected any crop. Many planted early and right now some are already harvesting and recording high yield, Odigie said.