Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Yam tubers are being sold at giveaway prices in Anambra State because farmers from Anambra East and West local government areas of the state have flooded the market with the produce.
They told Daily Sun that it was the only option left for them to avoid losing the whole harvest to floodwaters. The farmers complained about the destruction of their farms and barns by devastating flood in the area.
Farmers from Anam communities were not alone in this as those from the neighbouring communities in Kogi State have also harvested their yam tubers to avert total destruction by floods, which have been on the increase on a daily basis there.
The affected areas include Mmiata, Umuemu, Orama Etiti, Umudiora, Umeze, Umuoba and Iyiora, all in Anam community, while neighbouring communities in Kogi State are Amabo, Aniocha, Odeke, Otutu, and Achanwa, among others.
A visit to the popular Ose Okwodu market in Onitsha showed heaps of tubers of various shapes and sizes on display, with the farmers selling them at giveaway prices. Young and old people alike who loaded and offloaded the tubers from boats, buses and barrows did brisk business.
It was gathered that a tuber of yam that previously sold for N1,400 now sells for about N1000, while those previously going for N800 are now sold for N500. Surprisingly, our reporter saw that some categories of tubers of yam each went for as low as N20.
One of the farmers from Kogi State, Mr. John Ozoemena, said they embarked on massive harvest to save the produce from destruction, stressing that the situation resulted in what he termed “one-time harvest by all.”
Since the flood is a natural occurrence, the farmers admitted that there was nothing anybody could do to stop it, but they said that giving farmers loans in good time would enable them plant in due season and mitigate their predicament.
Ozoemena said: “We have decided to harvest and bring out our yams because of flood that has washed away our yam barns and farms. I lost about 1,800 tubers of yam worth about N480,000 to flood. We are auctioning them so that we will not lose all to the water. My regret is that we took loans to cultivate the yam and now water has washed away most of the farms.
“We are appealing to the state government to come to our aid and try as much as possible to release the loan to the framers on time to enable us cultivate in time so as to harvest before the flood would set in. We are suffering this problem because we did not plant the yam on time; that is why flood met us. If we had got loan on time and planted early enough, by now we would have finished harvesting before the flood.”
Another farmer from Anam community, Mr. Chidubem Nzegbu, lamented that the riverine farmers in Anambra had suffered huge losses this year, disclosing that he lost about 1,200 tubers of yam to flood.
Chairman of Ose Okwodu Yam Market Association, Chief Paul Okechukwu, said that the price of yam, which was high in July and August, had dropped due to the glut of the produce in the market following the floodwater that submerged yam farms in communities: “Yam is cheap now here but it will definitely lead to yam scarcity from November to January and the price will increase then because, by that time, the whole yam in the barns might have been sold off due to the flood, thereby causing hunger.”
Secretary of the yam market association, Mr. Sunday Okechukwu, said it would be difficult to have yam from the communities in November/December when they might have disposed of their produce ahead of the usual period: “So, by December, we will only depend on yam from the northern part of the country, which is dangerous. It’s dangerous to have scarcity but that’s a reality we have to face. To worsen the predicament, even some of the yam produce from the riverine areas that would be preserved will go bad and rotten by then due to water; thereby causing hunger.”