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Nigerian govt distributes 66,000 cocoa seedlings to smallholder farmers

The Nigerian government says it is distributing 66, 000 cocoa seedlings and other essential inputs to smallholder farmers to mitigate the effects of the new  coronavirus pandemic on the sector.

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri, disclosed this on Thursday when he flagged off the exercise in Oyo State.

He said the seeds are being given to farmers free of charge while other inputs are given at 75 per cent subsidy.

“The Ministry is also distributing over 18,000kg of organic insecticide to combat armyworm infestation in maize,” he said.

Mr Shehuri called for a robust synergy with state governments and other critical stakeholders to avert food insecurity posed by the COVID -19 pandemic .

President Muhammadu Buhari had in his Democracy Day broadcast on June 12 said Nigeria’s revenue from cocoa and sesame seeds has increased by $79.4 million and $153 million respectively in the past year.

“Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from cocoa and sesame seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million,” he said.

Mr Shehuri on Thursday spoke on the need to boost agricultural production in Nigeria, noting that “a number of countries have banned or drastically reduced food exports to avoid scarcity of food.

“With dwindling oil revenues and limited opportunity to import food from other countries, one would only wonder what Nigeria would have been experiencing today, in terms of food supply, if this Administration had not taken the right policy steps and remained focused and steadfast in investing in agriculture,” he said.

The minister said the ministry is supporting breeder and foundation seeds production and linking up with private seed companies to make certified seeds available to farmers for improved yield.

He said since smallholders are the most vulnerable, the government decided to support them with inputs, especially seeds, which he called the most important factor that influences farmers’ yield. He said the support is in order to enable farmers to recover quickly from the setback of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Through this effort and other complementary interventions by different stakeholders, the government hopes to increase the resilience of farmers and the national food systems in general.’’

He said the ministry is also supporting kenaf farmers through the Kenaf Producers, Processors and Marketers Association (KEPPMAN) with 19,672 kg kenaf foundation seeds.

Mr Shehuri said yam farmers are also being supported with about 12 metric tonnes of foundation seed for the production of certified seeds through their national association and other cooperative groups.

“In our input distribution efforts, at least 35 per cent of the inputs are targeted at women farmers in line with the targets set in our National Gender Plan and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women. This has been communicated to the Farmer Associations accordingly,’’ he said.

“The Ministry and its research institutions are working towards making Nigeria self-sufficient in good quality seeds and its availability to farmers as a foundation for attaining food and nutrition security as well as industrialisation,’’ he concluded.

In his remarks, the Oyo state governor, Oluseyi Makinde, represented by the secretary to the state government, Olubamiwo Adeosun, called for the transformation of the agriculture sector.

Hesaid “the countries that have successfully managed their own agricultural transformation have incorporated the following processes: modernizing business, strengthening the links between process, production and market.”

While appreciating the proactive move of the federal government toward ensuring that Nigeria averts food scarcity next year, he said Oyo has also adopted innovative and modern technology to ensure a data-driven process that is empirically documented and evidence-driven.

The state Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, ,Ojekunle Ojemuyiwa, described the gesture of the federal government as “very apt.”

He said the COVID- 19 pandemic is a monster that all hands must be on deck to curtail and eradicate.

In his vote of thanks, the permanent secretary of the agriculture ministry, Abdulkadir Mu’azu, who was represented by the director, federal department of agriculture, Karima Babaginda, said Oyo State was chosen for the ceremony because the state is the hub of agricultural institutes in Nigeria and also contributes significantly to the production of yam and cocoa among others.