Rice: Kebbi receives N14m grant, partners institute on improved rice seedlings

• As  Bayelsa farmers beckon for 2016 farming season registration

THE Bank of Agriculture (BOA) Manager in Kebbi State, Alhaji Yusuf Ibrahim has disclosed that it would grant N14 billion loan to 70,000 rice and wheat farmers in the second phase of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, recently in Birnin Kebbi Kebbi State.

Ibrahim who said that the bank had disbursed N1 billion to 2,710 farmers in the first phase of the programme, reiterated that BOA has so far concluded the first phase as farmers were provided with farm seedlings, fertiliser, water pumping machines and herbicides in addition to funds to enable them embark on land clearing and watering.

The Branch Manager said that they have made efforts to make sure that only registered farmers are assisted with the loan and inputs with no room for political involvement in the programme, adding that the farmers were expected to provide their harvested commodities to identified processing companies for purchase. He also revealed that the companies would weigh the produce to determine the price and save farmers the problem of marketing their produce.

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Ibrahim noted that BOA would also embark on another programme on rice and wheat production, which would target large scale farmers in the state to boost commercial production, stressing that the second phase of the programme would commence in March and called on farmers to access the loan as soon as possible. It is of important note that the CBN Anchor Rice and Wheat Programme is intended to create an ecosystem to link out growers (small holder farmers) to local processors. The programme entails increased financing of the agricultural sector by banks; enhanced capacity utilisation of agricultural firms involved in the production of identified commodities; and increased productivity and incomes of farmers.

In the same vein, the Press secretary to the Governor, Alhaji Abubaka Muazu has stated that government has concluded to partner with the National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi, Niger, to produce improved seedlings that would boost commercial rice and wheat production.

Muazu revealed that the state governor had showed interest in buying the institute`s new variety of improved seedlings after inspecting its model farms, adding that the institute`s Irrigation Officer, FadeiyeOlalekan, who conducted the governor round some model farms said the improved seedlings were free of diseases and capable of yielding 22 tonnes of rice per hectare. He stressed that the governor had promised to distribute improved seedlings to farmers as part of efforts to produce rice in commercial quantity.

Aside this the Press Secretary said, the state government had also engaged a private consortium biotechnology firm that specialised in mechanised farming to support the state in rice and wheat production in commercial quantity. The consultant of the firm, DrAbdularazak Ibrahim, said that the new seedlings were introduced to the state to boost agricultural production.

Meanwhile in Yenagoa, the Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Bayelsa chapter, Mr Ezekiel Ogbianko, has advised the youth to register with the body to enhance agricultural production in the country. He said that the association is calling on the young farmers to come and register with RIFAN to accelerate more development in agriculture, reduce unemployment, as well as boost the nation’s economy.

Ogbianko said the association had cleared 40, 000 hectares of land it acquired for rice cultivation in preparedness of RIFAN to commence farming activities in 2016, stressing that this year project would create more jobs for the people , and revealed that RIFAN already have about 40 youths working 40, 000 hectares of land. He said that RIFAN, Bayelsa chapter is working hard to create an enabling environment to make agriculture, especially rice farming more attractive for the youth.

The RIFAN Chapter Chairman who noted that farming is no long a job for the elderly ones; like other sectors, agriculture is also receiving modern techniques and method, reiterated that the association is calling on contractors to come and register with the union to move agri-business forward in Bayelsa.

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He also urged the Federal Government to deepen youth empowerment through agriculture, saying that such move would boost job creation, adding that enhancing youth empowerment through agriculture would not only reduce unemployment, but boost the nation’s economy and improve food supply to the citizenry. Ogbianko also said that no nation does it well without farming; there is need to improve our food production, emphasizing that the nation cannot depend on importation of rice for us to survive.

Ogbianko said Nigeria need young hands in agriculture as the nation is facing dwindling revenue today because we have solely relied on oil and gas, adding that the Federal Government should create a platform that can enable the youth to have easy access to agricultural loan for cassava, rice, beans, vegetable and fruits.