Abuja – Farmers have urged relevant agriculture agencies to improve on the nation’s produce storage facilities to achieve the Federal Government’s objectives of boosting food production.
The farmers were reacting to the inauguration of the Presidential Committee/Task Force on Rice and Wheat to facilitate its programme on self-sufficiency in food production.
Chief Marcel Eleri, Chairman of Association of Registered Farmers in Afikpo North LGA told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the government’s initiative to boost the production of rice and wheat across the country was instructive.
“The Federal Government should collaborate with the Ebonyi Government to rehabilitate the Silos at Ezillo, Ishiellu LGA of the state for improved grain and other seedlings preservation,’’ he said.
Also a member of AFAN, Bayelsa chapter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, decried the abandonment of the Bayelsa silos project.
The AFAN member told NAN that there were no doubt about the importance of food preservation to boost food security.
He urged the state and federal government to step up plans to complete the ongoing silos centre for agriculturalists in the state.
“Yes, this project is ongoing over the years, is at Igbogene, Yenagoa local government area of the state; we have been waiting to see it completed,’’ he said.
Also, Sen. Emmanuel Onwe, Ebonyi State’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation explained that the government sent a high-powered delegation to Kebbi State to understudy rice production modalities.
“We have accepted that Kebbi has overtaken Ebonyi in rice production, but we have embarked on mechanisation of rice production to reclaim our top spot.
“We would also enhance the capacity of the Silos at Ezillo for adequate storage of rice and other grains while improving on farmers’ storage capabilities across the state.
Mr Uchenna Orji, Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources noted that the state government has earmarked N50billion for farmers for improved rice production.
“The beneficiaries must show commitment to commercialise rice production, as the cultivation of the produce would be all year-round.
“The government has resolved that no land in the state would lie fallow, as it is enjoying tremendous collaboration from organisations such as FADAMA and International Food and Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Meanwhile in Anambra, the Chairman of Rice Farmers Association, Dr Nnamdi Meko said the state was close to producing at self sustainability in rice production.
Meko told NAN that the huge investment in the rice sector by the state government and private sector was already affecting small scale farmers positively as they serve as source of technical assistance and ready market.
However, he pointed out that the major challenge of members was poor irrigation facilities which had made them not to crop as much as possible during one calendar year.
Mr Chinedu Obiora, Assist. Agric Processing and Quality Enhancement Officer of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that only five Local Governments Areas of the state were participating in the value chain on rice and cassava production.
They are Ogbaru, Anambra North, Anambra West, Anyamelum and Orumba North.
He said that only Anyamelum and Anambra West had over 75 per cent production of both crops.
“It is possible that in the next few years, the state will be self sufficient in rice production.
“This will go a long way in complimenting the Federal Government’s effort to stop rice importation in 2017,’’ Obiora said.
He said that the state had over 1000 cooperative societies across the local government areas, which were actively involved in the production of rice.
Some of the farmers told NAN that with the right attitude, self-sufficiency in rice production is possible in the country.
They opined that there was adequate land for rice cultivation but that certain facilities were lacking to encourage mass cultivation across the country.
The Enugu State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Michael Eneh, said that lack of irrigation facilities had continued to hamper all-year rice production and yield in the state.
Eneh said that the current yield of rice in the state had grown from 1.5 tonnes per hectare to an average of 4 tonnes of rice at per hectare.
“We have realised improved rice yield since the FADAMA programme started from averagely 1.5 tonnes to 4 tonnes per hectares.
“And with the FADAMA III additional financing and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Growers Programme, we are anticipating an average of 6 tonnes per hectare.
“And we are targeting that 3,000 rice farmers in the state would be trained under the ongoing Anchor Growers Programme, which guarantees off-takers to buy the rice after harvest from the farmers,’’ he revealed.
On finance, the commissioner said that credit was no problem for rice farmers as the CBN-Anchor Borrowers Programme fund of N170,000 soft-loan per hectare of rice farm is available for all farmers that would go through their training.
“While the FADAMA III additional financing had set-aside $25 million for the state farmers especially rice farming, which is one of the major agricultural produce of Enugu State,’’ he said.
“However, with all these, we still have the primary and basic challenge of rice production which is water; availability of water could permit planting at least twice a year, which would grant more yield.
“We needed irrigational facilities if possible dams to increase our rice yield through all-year farming.
“As well, tractors for ploughing and reaping are needed to make for less labour but extensive cultivation,’’ he noted. (NAN)