The federal government has promised support following an outbreak of ginger disease which has ravaged several communities, leading to loss of livelihoods to farmers in Kaduna State and its environs.
The state accounts for 80 per cent of the ginger grown in the country and the commodity is referred to as the mainstay of the state’s economy.
About 95 per cent of the entire ginger grown this year has been wiped out following the epidemic which was first noticed in August and characterised by the sudden yellowing and drying of ginger leaves, thereby resulting in the rotting of its rhizome in the soil.
An assessment conducted by the Institute of Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, identified the disease as a fungal infection, which is both air and soil borne.
Although fungicides were recommended for fumigation of the affected farms, the solution came rather too late, the farmers claimed.
The state government and stakeholders and traditional rulers have continued to appeal to the federal government for support amid the devastation.
Speaking during the inspection of the affected farms in the Southern Kaduna communities, over the weekend, the Executive Director/Chief Executive, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Dr. Ezra Yakusak, said the devastation could affect the commodity world market supply chain as the country remains the fourth largest producer of ginger, adding that it would negatively impact non-oil performance.
He told THISDAY, “Next year, you will see or realise that the entire spectrum of the world market will be affected by this disease and that’s why we are all here to have first-hand information – to look at things and see what we can do in terms of intervention.
“It is not a good thing for us in terms of exports because with what we have seen here about 95 per cent of the entire ginger has been wiped away in Kaduna and what that means is that it is going to affect our non-oil export performance and that’s why we are worried and it is a thing of concern.”
Describing the outbreak as a pandemic, the NEPC boss said all hands must be on deck to address the problem
He said, “The way COVID-19 came and all efforts were on that disease, we should also place must attention on this disease because it is something that would affect the economy of this nation.
“I want to tell you that Nigeria is the fourth largest ginger producing country but Nigerian ginger is the best because of its pungency, high aroma and oil content.
“So, if this is happening to Nigeria, it’s like it’s happening to the world because eventually, it is going to affect the world market.”
Yakusak, said the NEPC would intervene by providing improved seedlings as well as build the capacity of ginger farmers to adopt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) going forward.
He said, “And another thing the council is going to do is to see how we can get improved seedlings to be distributed to farmers. It is not an easy task but we have to do that because the situation is actually pathetic.
“We’ve seen it, the whole ginger is actually melted and it is quite a strange disease that we don’t know where it is coming from – and it’s both air and soil borne because if you go to every farmer, the story is the same -this moment the ginger is fresh and green, the just the next moment, it is dry and melted completely.”
The Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Murtala Dabo, described the situation as really sad as about 2,500 hectares of farmland was affected, adding that more than seven farms had witnessed unprecedented levels of devastation.
He said, “As you can see, over 90 per cent of the farms are gone, melted. And the sad reality is that in this part of the state, our mainstay is ginger, we hardly cultivate the food crops. It is from ginger that they buy food, sponsor their children to school and from ginger they do every other thing.
“So, our livelihood is gone and there is so much strain on our people. We really need all the support we can get.”
According to the Institute of Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, already confirmed it was a fungal attack.
He said, “They came, took samples of the plant and the soil and as it is now, they’ve made their recommendations for the fungicide application but it came late.
“We bought the fungicides and distributed them among our smallholder farmers but the larger part of the farms is gone. We are trying to salvage the little, maybe for the seeds. Truly, we need to have improved seeds against next year.
“The loss is unquantifiable. Over 2,500 hectares are gone and with between N8 billion and N10 billion in monetary losses to farmers.”
The Sole Administrator, Jaba Local Government Council, Kaduna State, Hon. Nita Byack George, while calling on the federal government for urgent intervention, said the development had affected the lives of individual persons and the economy of the local government.
She told THISDAY, “It would amaze you to hear that there were some of our people who collapsed on their farms the moment they saw the devastating situation of their crops.
“A lot of families are really in great confusion because ginger is their source of livelihood and greatly affects the economy of the communities.”
A farmer told THISDAY that the disease outbreak was a, “mystery to us and our prayers now are seriously against next year because if it happens again next year, we are finished.
“Right now, we are trying to salvage some seeds to see if we can get some by next year. That’s our major problem now.”
Also, a local ginger exporter, Mr. Bala Alhamdu, said, “Of a truth, as of last two seasons, I exported about 45 containers but as of this season that is about to start in November and with what is happening now, I don’t think I can get up to two tons of ginger because I am yet to set my eyes on a particular farm that has been free from this infection.
“I am not myself right now. I am panicking virtually every day because this has been the source of livelihood for me. Moreover, I have about 50 staff working with me and I don’t know how I can cope with paying their salaries.”