This study determined and compared the profitability of cowpea and soybean enterprises in Gurara area of Niger State, Nigeria. A multistage random sampling procedure was used to draw one hundred and twenty (120) samples for the study. Data used for the study were elicited through structured questionnaire. Descriptive statistics, farm budgeting techniques and the T-test were used for the analyses. Results show that cowpea and soybean farmers in the study area are operating at a small scale, where the mean farm sizes for cowpea and soybean farmers were found to be 1.82 and 2.85 hectares respectively. The profitability analysis revealed both cowpea and soybean enterprises to be profitable. However, cowpea and soybean production was discovered to be more profitable than that of soybean. The cowpea enterprise had a gross margin of $698.82 and a net farm income of $659.99 per hectare.

The return on Dollar invested was found to be 1.43 (143%) for cowpea. The Gross Margin for soybean enterprise was estimated at $186.80 per ha, and a Net Farm Income of $153.59 per hectare was calculated. The return on Dollar invested for soybean was estimated at 0.38 (38%). The T-test analysis showed that the difference in the profitability of cowpea and soybean enterprises is significant at the 5% level of significance (t-tabulated value = 1.980, t-calculated =1.926). Both cowpea and soybean farmers experienced challenges in their farm operations. The challenges identified include poor credit facility, high cost of labour, lack of capital, and inadequate extension contact. Others include lack of market price information, and poor access to market centers due to bad roads. The study therefore recommends that credit facilities should be made available especially for cowpea and soybean farmers. Also, extension service coverage by concerned government agencies should be intensified.

1.1 Background to the Study
The choice of crop enterprise to embark upon is premised on the potential benefit envisage by the farmer. The cultivation of legumes in Nigeria has been known to be lucrative based on the financial returns made by farmers who participate (Aboki and Yuguda, 2013: Auko, 2006). Cowpea and soybean are important leguminous crops cultivated in Nigeria (Dashiell, 1998: Henry, 2014), this is because apart from the good price the crops attract on the market; they are viable sources of cheaper alternative protein (Ya’aishe, et al., 2010). Furthermore, the importance of the crops to Nigeria’s economy is that they are export commodities that provide the needed foreign exchange for the country. In recent times, farmers in Nigeria have had good return for crops cultivated, this was as a result of increased agricultural commodity prices (Okojie, 2016). The rural consumer price index shows a sharp increase in the last four years for agricultural produce (Fig. 1), implying an improved price regime for farmers. It is on record that as farmers are smiling home from the market because of a good sale: Consumers are dissipated by high agricultural produce prices (FEWSNET, 2024).

For farmers to leverage on the higher income opportunity provided by a crop enterprise, considering the prevailing price regime; the viability of portfolio choices available to them must be carefully assessed in order to have a good return at the end of the season (Fan et al., 2013). Hence, the identification of the crop that will enhance the overall returns for the farmer is a task that must be carried out, and the decision must be supported scientifically.

The profitability of a crop enterprise plays an important role in the allocation of resources by the farmer during planning (Kahan, 2013). However, when faced with seemingly good alternatives, the farmer may be in a dilemma of choice. The choice of which crop to cultivate should not be on the apparent likelihood of its profitability over another; it should rather be on a realistic basis as elucidated by scientific methods (Fan et al., 2013). It is therefore important that an informed decision is made by the farmer on the choice of crop to cultivate with a view to earning higher income. Farmers in the study area cultivate both cowpea and soybean crops as food and cash crops.

Soybean has enjoyed attention by farmers due to the lesser rigor involved in its cultivation as compared to cowpea. Also there is the perception that soybean is more lucrative in terms of returns than cowpea, hence the interest by farmers. How can the lucrativeness of a crop over another be determined devoid of prejudice? The distinction must be carried out through a statistical process; hence the need for this study. Comparative profitability studies on cowpea and soybean showed Nigeria to be the world’s largest producer of cowpea and the second largest producer of soybean in Africa (Sahel, 2024; FAO, 2004; Buhari, 2024). Available studies show comparative analysis between farming systems, agronomic endowments of crops and technical coefficients.

Nemes (2009) carried out a comparative profitability analysis of organic and non-organic farming across countries. She asserted that, it is generally hard to conclude the profitability of one system over the other. This is because there are other location specific factors that may be responsible. She proposed a multi- disciplinary approach involving the whole farm. However, the conclusion was that organic farming is economically profitable than conventional agriculture. Kizito (2012) compared the performance of agriculture under military and civilian rule in Nigeria. The comparison has to do with the proportion of public expenditures in the two regimes in Nigeria. He reported that the performance of agriculture during the military regime is better than that found under the civilian rule; even though the allocation to agriculture was higher in the civilian regime.

1.2 Problem Statement
A large proportion of the 1700 million tonnes of cereals (wheat, maize, rice, sorghum, millet) and the 600 million tonnes of tubers (potato, cassava, yam, etcetera) produced in the world constitute a very significant part, particularly in the developing countries, of the essentials of human food. But the legumes, of which the world production is hard to evaluate, are used as food crops to a much smaller and very variable extent, inspite of the fact that the relative composition of carbohydrates and lipids in legumes and their richness in protein make them important components of the food ration, particularly when there is an insufficiency of proteins of animal origin, a typical situation in many tropical developing countries (Onwueme and Sinha, 1991).

Sangari (1992) compared the relative productivity and profitability of traditional and modern irrigation systems with a view to assess the impact of modernization of indigenous irrigation technologies on the agricultural economy of the peasants in the Donga River Basin of the old Gongola State of Nigeria. The results indicated that while the cost of production and farm income seem to vary significantly between the three irrigation management practices, they do not vary significantly for low-lying and raised lowland sites under each irrigation type. Also, Ogunniyi (2012) compared technical, allocative and economic efficiencies between improved and traditional rice farmers in Oriade local government area of Osun state. He reported that farm size and agrochemicals are significant factors influencing the two rice technologies in the area. The technical efficiency value for improved rice production was reported to be higher than that of traditional production. Even though there are comparative studies on agricultural systems and other aspects of the sector, there are no studies ascertaining the comparative profitability of cowpea and soybean in the study area. It is on this premise that the study estimated and compared the profitability of the two legume crops with a view to providing farmers with a basis for making a profitable choice between cowpea and soybean crops depending on the objective of cultivation.

1.3 Research Questions
(i) What is the technical, allocative and economic efficiencies of cowpea vs soybean production?

(ii) What are the socio-economic factors influencing the economic efficiency in cowpea vs soybean production?

(iii) Is cowpea and soybean production profitable? and

(iv) What are the constraints faced by cowpea and soybean farmers?

1.4 Objectives of the study.
The broad objective of the study was to compare the Profitability of cowpea and soybean production in Chanchaga LGA of Niger State of Nigeria. The specific objectives were to:

(i) describe the socio-economic characteristics of farmers in the study area,

(ii) estimate the technical, allocative and economic efficiencies of cowpea and soybean production,

(iii) determine the socio-economic factors influencing the economic efficiency of cowpea and soybean production,

(iv) estimate the costs and returns in cowpea and soybean production in the study area,

(v) describe the constraints faced by cowpea and soybean farmers in the study area.

1.7 Justification of the study.
The provision of an adequate protein supply in human nutrition in quantity as well as in quality is one of the major aspects of the fight against hunger. In regions where animal protein is scarce due to the absence of livestock rearing capabilities due to drought or the incidence of trypanosomiasis in the forest zones or other reasons, the grain legumes are an alternative source of vegetable protein which is capable of at least partially compensating for the deficiency in animal protein supply (Ojanuga, 2006). The seeds of most legume species have average protein contents of 20 to 35 percent (i.e. percent of dry matter), whereas in the most frequently cultivated tropical cereals such as maize, sorghum, millet and rice, these contents vary between 7 and 12 percent. The essential amino-acid contents of these legumes are also all higher than they are in these cereals (Ojanuga, 2006)

The importance of the study is basically to contribute to the existing knowledge on the efficiency and profitability of cowpea and soybean production in Niger State in particular and Nigeria in general. Profit maximization is one of the major objectives of business enterprises and is dependent on how production resources are harnessed (Afolabi et al., 2013).

Information provided on the efficiency of resource use in cowpea and soybean production in the study area will guide the adjustment of resources, provide a framework for evaluating policy and show how maximum possible output can be attained from the minimum possible set of inputs. This will help producers in making decisions with regards to the optimal use of scarce resources in improving cowpea and soybean production to meet domestic and foreign demand. This study will also provide information on those factors that influence production efficiency in cowpea and soybean production in the study area.

Similarly, the study will provide basis for rational policy formulation for the improvement farmers‟ performance in cowpea and soybean production in the state, based on the measurement and identification of the sources of inefficiency in cowpea and soybean production.

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