Increasing cases of theft of farm produce has forced many farmers in Taraba State to relocate to their farms to safeguard their crops.
Investigations by the News Agency of Nigeria in Jalingo, Gassol, Lau, Ardo-Kola, Gashaka, Karim-Lamido and Bali Local Government Areas revealed that farmers now keep 24-hour watch over both harvested crops and those yet to be harvested.
The Chairman of Taraba Rice Farmers’ Association, Alhaji Hassan Abubakar, told NAN on Saturday in Jalingo that some farmers had lost tonnes of grains – mainly rice, cowpea and maize – to thieves who normally invaded the fields at night.
He said rising demand for farm produce and attendant attractive prices in markets could be responsible for the rampant cases of crop theft.
Alhaji Muntari Ajuji, a large scale farmer in Sabon-Gida, Gassol Local Government Area, said he had to hire five security guards to watch over each of his three farms.
Similarly, Alhaji Ali Maihula, a farmer from Bali Local Government Area, told NAN that he had been practically living in one of his farms, while his children and other family members took care of his other farms during the day, and hired guards at night.
The farmer added that he had adopted early evacuation of crops from fields to his home to ensure their safety.
A farmer at Bembal Village in Gassol Local Government Area, Malam Buba Musa, told NAN that his family had been keeping vigil in his farms after some thieves harvested his maize at night.
He said the maize was mature and about to be harvested but was stolen few days to the planned harvest day.
“Thieves sneaked in overnight and made away with more than half of crops from the three-hectre farm,’’ he said.
Mr Dauda Wada, a leader of a local community security group, popularly referred to as ‘Yan banga’ in Northern Nigeria, told NAN in Mutum-Biyu that cases of theft of farm produce had become rampant.
He said many of such theft had been reported to the group but only few arrests had been made because the thieves operated mostly at midnight.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Taraba, ASP David Misal, said although no produce theft had been reported to the command, he could not rule out the possibility.