Fears of an imminent food shortage have gripped northern Nigeria following a shorter-than-usual rainy season and a locust invasion, officials and grain dealers said.
Accordingly grain merchants are withholding their goods in the hope of being able to command higher prices if they supply markets once an actual shortage is under way.
Advertisement"The food situation this season is alarming... farmers have recorded poor yields as a result of the short rains and the destruction of crops by locusts," said Muhammad Abdullahi Koya, head of the merchants' association in Kano's Dawanau grain market, the largest in West Africa.
"Grain dealers are waiting to assess the food situation once all crops have been harvested so as to know how to fix the prices of their commodities to make some gains," Koya continued.
"Our supplies now are from old stock. We had refused to buy from farmers due to the low quality of what they are selling but we are forced to go back to them and buy from them," Koya said.
The possibility of shortages caused the influential traditional chief of Kano, Ado Bayero to call on the Nigerian government to use its strategic food reserves to off-set the shortage in the market.
Bayero made this appeal during his message last week to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The shortage of grains in Dawanau will affect not only northern Nigeria but will have a ripple effect on other countries in the region including Niger, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cameroon and Mali as well as Central African Republic whose merchants patronize the market, Koya said.
The major grains found in Dawanau market are sorghum, millet, maize, cowpea, wheat, groundnuts, dried cassava and sesame.
The situation in northern Nigeria comes as the world celebrates World Food Day with the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) warning of possible food shortages in some regions of the world.
In northern Nigeria rain usually falls for four months, between May and August but this year had less than three months of rain and it came later than usual.
"It is still too early to conclude that there is going to be food shortage.
"We are waiting for the report of the experts we sent to every corner of the state to assess the impact of the rain shortage and the locusts on farm yields before we can come up with an informed analysis," Musa Suleiman Shanono, Kano's agriculture commissioner, told AFP in his office.