Grain merchants from Niger head to Dawanau market in Kano - West Africa`s largest grain market – to buy truck-loads of millet and sorghum, locally known as Guinea corn, to bolster declining food stocks.
"An average of 30 trucks of grain leaves this market to Niger daily. Grain traders from Niger are busy buying every bag of grain they can find to satisfy the high food demand back home, where food is scarce," Aminu Mohammed, a grain merchants` spokesman in Dawanau market, told IRIN.
"This excessively high demand from Niger, coupled with local demand, has resulted in the shrinking of our grains stockpile," Mohammed said. Dawanau market supplies much of Nigeria and many of its neighbours, but part of the grain supplied to it is grown in Niger.
Over the past three months, thousands of Nigeriens from southern Niger have poured across the border to the five northern Nigerian states of Katsina, Yobe, Jigawa, Sokoto and Borno, in search of casual labour to raise money to buy grain.
"I left behind my two wives and nine children in my village and send them grain and other items I purchase here every week," Umaru Isa, from Falanku in southern Niger`s Maradi region, told IRIN.
The Maradi, Zinder, Diffa, Tilaberi and Tahoua regions in Niger are hardest hit by food insecurity. Isa made the 120km trek with 32 compatriots and took up water vending to earn money to buy food.
Aid agencies have stepped up their response to the crisis in Niger, and the transitional government has announced that food will be distributed to 1.5 million people, but Nigeriens in Katsina told IRIN that the food handouts were too meagre to meet their needs. Katsina State Agriculture Commissioner Sani Makana said food from its emergency reserves would be distributed to some of the immigrants.
Abdullahi Koya, former head of the Dawanau Grain Merchants Association, said most of the millet and corn in Dawanau market had already been sold, and traders were now buying up warehouse stocks. Merchants store up to three years` worth of millet and guinea corn stocks in warehouses to sell during the lean season.
Nigerians mainly eat rice, maize, cow pea and tubers, with a minority drinking millet porridge. "It is just a matter of time before the millet and corn in the war