Resources and investments associated with these operations, if done too early, could go down the drain, and this could discourage resource-poor farmers from making another attempt, especially if farms operation costs are not insured.
An agricultural consultant, David Ayodele, who operates a fleet of tractors in the North Central zone, advised farmers, while speaking with The Guardian, that farmland preparations depend on the rainfall patterns, the crop of interest and the zone of operations.
Basically, he added, if the farmland to be used is yet to be deforested, the land clearing can begin in March. After the land clearing, land preparation can begin in the forested zones.
“If you are planting cassava, for example, you can do first plowing and harrowing, depending on the terrain. If you are planting with a cassava planter, you can leave it at that level. But if you are planting manually, you might need ridging. That means you plow, harrow and ridge the farmland. You may avoid harrowing if you want,” he said.
Mr. Biodun Olugbemi of the Association of Equipment Hiring Operators said land clearing should be done in the forested areas a month before land preparation.
In the South of the country, clearing of the forest should begin in March, while in the North; it could begin in April or may depending on the area.
Corroborating Ayodele, he said land preparation, which includes making beds and ridges, should begin when the rainfalls are stable, about a month or less to the planting dates.
Too early land preparation and planting could lead to loss of investments, labour and could cause discouragement.
Kolawole Adeniji, an agribusiness investor and tool fabricator, said land preparation for rain-fed agriculture should start by March both in the south and the north, but irrigated farmland should be started by January to February.
An engineer with the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM), Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr. Tope Faleye, affirmed that land clearing had already started and land preparation should start with steady rainfall.
He too cautioned farmers to avoid too early planting for it had been predicted that the rainfall patterns would be erratic this year.
“As soon as rain is established, farmers are expected to start ploughing the land and subsequent operations to meet the need of intended crops to plant,” he advised.
The high cost of farm operations
On the high cost of land preparation in Nigeria, Ayodele said outdated implements and low powered tractors being used for farm operations are not as effective as the latest ones, which are out of the reach of many tractor hiring service providers.
“The three-disc plough that we use now, for example, is outdated in the developed economies. These implements and tractors are not cost-effective, but we need bigger ones to pull the more efficient implements.
Adding to the cost is what Ayodele explained “land is always not well cleared, and these implements and tractors break down frequently, thereby increasing the cost of production. The logistics and infrastructure are not really available here. These combine to increase the cost of production.”
Most of the tractors used in Nigeria develop injector problems because of adulterated diesel.
This is confirmed by Adeniji, that diluted diesel increases the cost of operations, which the farmers, and by extension, all Nigerians, would have to bear.”
“Another factor for the high cost of land preparation in Nigeria is that we have the inadequate number of tractors. Demand is more than supply, forcing the price up,” Ayodele added.
Better tractors and implements to reduce cost
The experts agreed that agribusinesses, you must start from the marketing of your products.
The government should be able to buy all agricultural products in the country or create supply and demand chains for them, with prize ceiling and benchmarks to stimulate calculated risk-taking in farming.
The government should buy the surplus, to control the prize. This will make agribusiness sense. Farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs could plan with this.
The second area is that the government should put in place an inclusive financing mechanism. It comes easier for farmers to come up with a proposal that is guaranteed by the buy-back mechanism of the government.