By Michael Nnebife
The astronomical hike in the fuel pump price following the pronouncement by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on 29th May that ‘fuel subsidy is gone’ has hit hard on rice processors and millers in Ayamelum Local Government Area, Anambra State, such as has never seen before.
Recall that on the pronouncement by the president during his Inaugural Speech, fuel pump price tripled across the nation, resulting in sharp increase in prices of many commodities and transport fares.
The situation in the rice mill sites in Ayamelum Council Area was not only similar to those of other areas of economic activities in Nigeria, but it was also a tale of one finding oneself between two leopards.
One of the rice mill operators, Mrs Ngozi Nnaemeka of Okonkwo Rice Mill, Omor, said, ‘We buy fuel N600, N700, and now N1000, without even increasing the price we take to mill a bushel, because if you do so, you may not see anybody (farmers).
‘Even now as we’re talking, we’ve stopped using motorcycles because of the too much price of fuel. Almost everybody is now trekking, irrespective of the distance of your destination,’ she added.
Another operator, Mr Matthew Igwe, of Nwanneka Rice Mill, also at Omor, expressed displeasure over the development, but agreed with Mrs Nnaemeka that he increased the price of milling a bushel of rice from N700 to N1000.
This might be connected to the insignificant number of rice sellers at Nwanneka Mill and some others without any buyer in sight as of press time, despite the fact that it was the main day for rice trading in the area.
Though, when our reporter asked to know the reason for the quietness that engulfed the normally busy area on Nkwo Market Days due to a large presence of rice buyers from across the state, Mr Igwe said it was because nobody was happy’.
Also at Panny Rice Mill, Omor, the situation was the same. A rice processor working in the mill, Mr Christian Agummadu, lamented the sharp downturn in patronage by urban rice dealers.
Mr Agummadu who is also a rice farmer, added that skyrocketed prices of farm inputs such as fertilizer, herbicide and high cost of labour, worsened by the removal of fuel subsidy, caused the over-increasing price of rice in the area.
He said, ‘Before, a bag of fertilizer was N10, 000. Last year, it was N22, 000, but this year, it’s N25, 000. You can see we’ve a problem.
‘So, we appeal to the government to help us by way of subsidizing prices of farming inputs – we’ve enough land that can enable us to produce enough food for the entire Southeast if we can get government intervention.
‘In most cases, agric interventions from the government don’t get to the real farmers, but people who call themselves chiefs, chairmen of cooperatives, usually grabbed the interventions and sold to the real farmers at market prices,’ he alleged and suggested that on-the-spot survey of farmers should be accompanying government’s agricultural interventions, so as to get the aim of such interventions achieved.