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ANSG earmarks N3.5 billion for rural farmers

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AS a well articulated strategy to boost rapid grassroots’ development and economic empowerment of rural women and youths, the Anambra State Government has finalized plans o procure and disburse over N3.5 billion loan package from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to rural farmers across the state in the 2020 farming season, purposely to maximize agricultural productivity and further enhance food security in the state, as well as promote the exportation of foodstuffs to generate revenue for both the farmers and state government.

  The Commissioner for Agriculture, Nnamdi Onukwuba, made this disclosure during an exclusive interview with our ‘Rural Development’ correspondent in his office at the ADP Building, Awka, and promised that rural farmers and agricultural investors would receive massive assistance by the state government in line with the blueprint of Governor Willie Obiano’s administration for the agricultural sector as one of its ‘Pillars of Development’.

  Commissioner Onukwuba hinted that under a new public-private-partnership (PPP) initiative, the government would involve private investors to handle the tractor operations for improved land development for rural farmers in order to increase the overall output by the farmers this year, pointing out that apart from the massive financial investment, early distribution of hybrid crop seeds and other necessary agricultural inputs would be facilitated in good time which would be capped with the official launching of the 2020 Farming Season early enough by the governor.

  According to him, the Vision 2020 of the state government for the sector revolves around doing everything in time because agriculture is based on timely activities for maximum yields, just as a team would be commissioned to evaluate the overall performance of the dry season farming flagged off last year by Governor Obiano with a view to effecting desired improvement for better results.

  Mr. Onukwuba further confirmed that concerted efforts would be channeled to the implementation of a new tractor management system under a public-private-partnership (PPP) initiative whereby interested investors would be involved in the procurement and provision of tractor services to farmers which would augment efficient management of the tractors on the basis of joint and equitable sharing of the proceeds to help beef up the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state government.

  Explaining the reason for the PPP arrangement, Commissioner Onukwuba disclosed that more tractors are required to be deployed to the agricultural hubs around the state to boost food production as most of the available tractors procured for agricultural land development were discovered to have factory faults, because they do not operate with Nigerian diesel, hence, they need to be ratified with the installation of the necessary components suitable to operate with local diesel.

  The state government also has another package from the CBN and the World Bank for the promotion of the crop sector farming for massive rice and cassava production by rural farmers who would be organized in clusters of 1,000 farmers each across the three senatorial zones of the state with off-takers on the ground to absorb all their bumper agricultural output for maximum economic benefits to all the stakeholders, Mr. Onukwuba further disclosed.

   Aquaculture would also get considerable chunk of the fund to boost fishery production while livestock sub-sector would be reinvigorated with special attention on the introduction of cattle ranching (‘Efi Igbo’), piggery, goat and other animal husbandry together with modern apiculture (bee keeping) to be facilitated with the World Bank and Federal Government’s livestock production support fund envisaged for widespread economic empowerment of youths and women in the rural communities across the state.

   He recalled the dry season farming officially flagged off last year (2019) by Governor Obiano which has immensely increased vegetable and staple food production for the sustenance of the export drive if the present All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) controlled administration in the state, pointing out that all the heads of departments under the Ministry of Agriculture had submitted their quarterly work plans to his office for effective monitoring and performance assessment, adding that top priority had been placed on punctuality of the workforce to duty and efficient discharge of their responsibilities for better results and maximum productivity.

   In essence, the focus of Vision 2020 agricultural thrusts of the state government would be on timely and prompt provision of essential inputs, improved tractor services, effective preservation of agro produce with locally fabricated equipment that would be cheap and affordable to farmers to eliminate post-harvest losses as well as export drive.

   Presently, the state exports mainly vegetables and frozen food items to the United States of America (USA) and West African coast through the concerted efforts of two indigenous companies, Grafil Limited which undertakes the exports to USA while Tiger Foods Limited handles the West African routes, Mr. Onukwuba also disclosed.

   The commissioner described the rural farmers as very enthusiastic and always eager to collaborate with the state government in the reinvigorated agricultural revolution being championed by the Obiano’s administration, just as he urged them to get ready for greater tasks as the government had concluded plans to make the 2020 farming season uniquely outstanding through the activities various agencies under the ministry, like the FADAMA, Value Chain Directorate, ATASP, etc.

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