Fire guts sugarcane 30 hectares field in Kebbi

By Adewunmi Abodunrin,

A sugarcane field spanning about 30 hectares has been razed by fire which was reported to had gutted the field in Mai-Ramu village, Koko-Besse Local Government Area of Kebbi.

It was reported that the fire occurred on Thursday night in Koko and that crops worth millions of Naira were destroyed.

The  Chairman, Koko-Besse Local Government Area,  Shu’aibu Ibrahim, disclosed that even though fire was heavy, no life was lost during the incident as farmers were at still at home as at when the fire started.

Speaking at the scene of the incident, the Executive Director, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Rabiu Kamba, expressed concern on the level of damage recorded on field, just as he sympathized with the farmers on their losses.

“We sympathize with you and assure you that the state government will assist you to cushion the effect of the disaster,” he said.

FG subsidizes farmers’ insurance by 50%

By Abolaji Adebayo

In a bid to encourage farmers and reduce the risks encountered in their activities, the federal government has declared support of 50 per cent of farmers’ insurance in agricultural value chain.

According to the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC), the gesture by the government was aimed at encouraging farmers to embrace insurance, noting that farmer’s attitude to insurance in Nigeria was not encouraging.

Speaking in Abuja on Monday while briefing newsmen on the activities of the corporation, the Managing Director, NAIC, Folashade Joseph, expressed dismay at the farmers’ refusal to take up insurance despite the benefits inherent in it.

Joseph stated that the insurance would rather sustain the farmer across the agriculture value chain if embraced, adding that it is the focal point of the government to curb agricultural risk.

The NAIC boss urged farmers to insure their farms against natural disasters such as flood, diseases and erosion.

“Agriculture insurance is what a lot of farmers across the value chain do not do. They see it as an additional cost but it is not. We have had testimonies from farmers that went into tomato farming and when there was tomato Ebola, that was the end of their farms.

“Government has subsided insurance for farmers by 50 per cent. For instance, for crops, if you are to pay a premium of N4, NAIC will charge farmers N2.

“That is 50 per cent of subsidy for farmers across the agriculture value chain. So it is an advantage for farmers to take and make sure that they insure their farms and remain in business in case of natural disasters,” she said.

She informed that the corporation would soon start sensitization of farmers by organizing forums to educate them on the importance of insurance.

“If you spend a lot of money across the agriculture value chain and you do not insure, what happens if there is a natural disaster?

“The cost should be taken care of by insurance companies and that is what NAIC stands for.

“We exist so that farmers can smile. We de-risk the natural disasters of farmers across the value chain,’’ the NAIC boss said.

Nigeria’s rice importation drops by 95% – Ogbeh

By Abolaji Adebayo

Nigerian agricultural sector has experienced boom especially in the aspect of rice production as country was said to have substituted 95 per cent of locally produced for the imported one in the last two years, leaving the country with option of sourcing just 5 per cent foreign rice.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed the drastic decline in the rate of rice importation said that the country had made a lot of progress in efforts to stop rice importation, adding that the feats were a plus to the national economy.

Analyzing the trend at the first Annual NACCIMA-NIRSAL Agribusiness and Policy Linkage Conference in Abuja recently, Ogbeh disclosed that by September 2015, the country was importing 644,131 tonnes of rice which was dropped to 20, 000 tonnes in September 2017, exactly two years later.

The minister said that the achievement was aided by the federal government’s policy to stop rice importation.

“The drop is about 95 per cent. However, smugglers have been very busy, trying to sabotage and compromise the country’s efforts to stop rice importation. There are 12.2 million people growing rice in the country, producing paddy for the rice mills.

“In Kano State alone, we have 1,421 rice mills. We have large paddy fields in Anambra, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Kebbi state and more are coming up,’’ he said.

He explained that agriculture was strictly private sector-driven, adding that the government did not have any intention to engage in farming but to initiate policies that would be favourable for private sector investments.

“Government has no farm and cannot attempt to farm. If we try, it will be disastrous. Farming business belongs to the private sector.

“That is why in our new policy called the Green Alternative agriculture production programme, we spelt it out clear that agriculture is private sector-driven.

“All that government can do is to lay out policy and try to ensure that the private sector succeeds when it gets involved in agriculture. We cannot solve all the problems in a year or two but we will certainly make some progress,’’ he said.

He stated that the government would also try to reduce interest rate on agricultural loans to single digit, adding that agriculture could not thrive under loans with high interest rates.

On the challenges and recommendations identified at the conference, Ogbeh pledged that the ministry would follow them up and present them to the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development for further action.

The Managing Director of NIRSAL, Aliyu Abdulhameed, said that the conference was in line with the federal government’s policy on private-public collaboration to make agriculture a business.

“What you see today is exactly what the federal government is looking at. How can the private sector lead and how can policy support the leadership of the private sector? What you observed today is the mandate of NIRSAL, as handed to us by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). How do you get actors from the value chain, from primary production, all the way through processes, retailing and domestic markets, to export?

“How do you get the actors financed in a systematic way? NACCIMA represents the private sector here. There are two value chains here too: the finance value chain and agricultural value chain.

“We will all come together, that is NIRSAL and NACCIMA, to operate in the policy space into the public-private partnership (PPP) agenda of the Federal Government to spur progress.

Also speaking, the President of NACCIMA, Alaba Lawson, said that all hands must be on deck to make headway in terms of treating agriculture as a business in the country.

The conference, with the theme: “Implementing the Agriculture Component of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP)’’, was organised by the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), in collaboration with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).

Dry season farmers seek govt’s assistance

By Abolaji Adebayo

As the year rolls by, the dry season farmers in Kaduna State have appealed to the state government to provide adequate inputs to enable them to scale up production in the 2017/2018 farming season.

They expressed their feeling about under-utilization of natural facilities for successful dry season farming leading to farmers’ over-dependence on rain-fed farming of rice, maize, tomato and soya beans that grow very well in the state.

The state Chairman, Fadama Farmers Association, Malam Ahmed Muhammed, made the appeal at the Agriculture Vision Group (AVG) meeting convened to validate the Agricultural Investment Plan for approval by the state government in Kaduna.

Speaking on Wednesday, Muhammed said the state had hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable Fadama land not yet cultivated, which had made the farmers to solely depend on rain-fed farming.

The validation meeting was organised by Synergos Nigeria, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), with technical support from Technoserve.

He disclosed that government needed to pay more attention to Fadama farming due to its profitability advantage over the rain-fed agriculture.

“Government needs to support farmers to access adequate fertilisers, improved seeds, chemicals and tractors as well as credit facilities for dry season farming.

“Government also needs to develop the Fadama areas around its reserved water resources like the Gurara Dam, Galma Dam and Kangimi Dam and others located in different parts of the state.”

According to him, the facilities, if improved, will enhance food security, reduce poverty among communities living around the dams as well as add value to the nutrition of malnourished children and women in the state.

He informed that the association had more than 4,200 registered farmers engaged in tomato, rice, soyabeans and vegetable production across the state.

Meanwhile, Synergos, under the State Partnership in Agriculture (SPA) progeamme, stated that the validation meeting would ensure the production of an agricultural investment plan that would attract both local and foreign investors into the state.

Synergos Field Manager, Victor Adejoh, noted that details of land availability, cost of production of major food and cash crops as well as labour had been incorporated into the plan.

He said the details would attract investments into the state for the commercial production of the food crops.

Data from the State Bureau of Statistics showed that Kaduna state provides more than 40 per cent of the maize produced in the country.

It was also reported to be a major producer of tomato, rice and soyabeans as well as the largest producer of ginger, placing Nigeria third behind China and India in global ranking.

Jigawa seeks international supports on increased sesame exportation

By Abolaji Adebayo

Jigawa State Government has begun negotiation with various international buyers seeking their supports on increment in the exportation rate of sesames produced in the state, which have been part of major foreign exchange earners for the country.

The state was said to be the second largest producer of sesame in Nigeria with the production capacity of 5 per cent of Africa’s sesame export of about 1.45million tonnes per annum.

A delegation led by the Deputy Governor, Bar. Ibrahim Hadejia to the 7th International Conference on Pulses, Oilseeds and Spices in Addis Ababa recently made an effort to enter into partnership with some foreign investors on how to increase Jigawa’s sesame export to global markets.

Hadejia disclosed that the state has a 4 year program of tripling its existing production volumes with a goal of accounting for 15 per cent of Africa’s production, noting that WACOT (one of TGI subsidiaries – a foreign investor in Nigeria) and Jigawa State Government had entered into a Public Private Partnership about two years ago to improve the local Sesame industry.

A joint presentation on the Public Private Partnership was made at the event by the Jigawa delegation which included the Commissioner of Agriculture, an official of investjigawa as well as Senior Executives from the Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group.

Speaking at the conference, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs of TGI Group, Sadiq Kassim, explained the strategic role of Jigawa in the global sesame market stressing that a large proportion of Sesame in Nigeria’s main commodity markets comes from Jigawa.

The conference which was a convergence of global players in the industry provided a unique opportunity for the delegation to interact with investors, equipment manufacturers and major exporters of sesame and pulses products.

In declaring the conference open, the Ethiopian President, Mulatu Teshome, stressed the growing significance of oilseeds and pulses as major foreign exchange earners for developing economies and called for more investments in the sector.

According to Hadejia, this is the first time a Nigerian delegation presented and also participated in panel discussions at the event which attracted hundreds of industry leaders from Japan, Israel, India, China, Sudan, Ethiopia and Europe.

At the side-line of the event, Hadejia and the Head of TGI’s Commodity Trading Business based in Dubai, Bal Anand, held strategic meetings with major sesame buyers from Asia and Middle East to further promote Jigawa Sesame which is seen as one of the most desirable varieties in the world.

During the meetings, most of the buyers raised concerns about the logistical challenges at Apapa ports which is impacting delivery timelines.

Hadejia however assured the buyers that the Federal Government of Nigeria was doing its best to get the port matter resolved.

At a dinner organized in honour of the delegation by the Nigeria Embassy, the Ambassador to Ethiopia and permanent representative to the African Union and UNECA, Bankole Adeoye commended the Jigawa State Government for its foresight in developing the local economy through its numerous agricultural initiatives.

He called on other states to seek partnership with relevant institutions in creating sustainable livelihoods for Nigerians.

In his remarks, the Deputy Governor thanked the Ambassador and his Staff for the warm reception and support accorded to the team throughout their stay in Addis Ababa.

Nasarawa commissions rice processing plant

By Balogun Alabi

Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Al-Makura has handed over a modern rice processing plant to rice millers in order to boost rice production in the state.

As learnt, the plant was established in partnership with Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) under the Rice Post-Harvest Processing and Marketing Pilot Project (RIPMAPP).

Under the project, JICA was expected to provide the machines and technical expertise, while the state government would provide the structures and other facilities.

And the commencement of the project was, however, delayed because of the designed efforts of the state government to ensure that the initiative was not misused, thereby frustrating its goals.

The Governor yesterday, hinted that the delay was to ensure proper registration and monitoring of the beneficiaries of the project so as to check its abuse.

“We do not want to go the way of previous administrations where very expensive facilities and government assets were just thrown to the dogs and people would feast on them.

“The recent experience of `Badakoshi’ Agricultural Loan Scheme by the previous administration in the state, where farm inputs were given to farmers without concrete repayment plans, is a good lesson.

“As we speak, Nasarawa State is indebted up to the tune of about N1billion for tractors and other inputs, which the previous administration procured and gave out freely to people in the name of ‘Badakoshi’ loan scheme,” he said.

Al-Makura said that the government would closely monitor the rice plant so as to ensure its maximum utilisation by rice millers and marketers, who were given a six-month grace period to meet certain conditions.

He assured that the government would not hesitate to take back the plant at the expiration of the grace period if the rice millers and marketers failed to satisfy the conditions.

“The state government is committed to ensuring that our rice millers grow to the point of participating in the value chain and creating wealth for themselves and by extension, the state,” he said.

“The current rice mill in the Kilema area of Lafia is so choked up and the activities of millers are polluting the major water source to the Lafia waterworks, hence the need to relocate the mill to a bigger place with better facilities,’’ the governor said.

The Chairman of Nasarawa State Rice Millers and Dealers Association, Adamu Ibrahim commended the state government and JICA for the project and promised that the plant would be used to boost rice production.

Borno procures 2000 tractors, other equipment for farmers, harps on food security

By Abolaji Adebayo

Borno State Government has procured 2,000 tractors, 50 combined harvesters, drift sprinklers, drift irrigation and a host of modern farming tools for farmers to encourage agricultural activities in the state.

The government has also appealed to the concerned bodies to support the state in taking proactive measures towards mitigating the effects of food insecurity caused by Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.

Speaking at the inauguration of Farm Inputs Distribution organised by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Maiduguri recently, the governor of the state, Kashim Shettima, disclosed that the state has been ravaged by food insecurity since the menace of Boko Haram started causing malnutrition among the residrents.

Shettima, who appreciated the Federal Government’s intervention in curbing food insecurity, maintained that the challenge still persisted, saying such measures were imperative to control the situation during the anticipated lean season between June and July.

He noted, “When we recorded food insecurity challenge in the past, we complained to President Muhammad Buhari. And to be sincere, the president responded positively toward addressing the food and humanitarian crisis in the region.

“The president ordered the release of food from the strategic reserve, and with support of the United Nations and donor agencies, we are able to control the situation.

“But the problem still persists, as farmers could not go to the farm and they want to go back home, to enable them to cultivate their farmlands.

“Practical measures are necessary to support farmers before the commencement of the next cropping season.”

The governor commended FAO over its food and agriculture intervention programme in the state.

He noted that the programme had mitigated nutrition and food shortage, as well as encouraged agricultural activities.

He stated that the programme also provided livelihood to displaced farmers, which enabled them to grow crops and generate income to take care of their needs.

FAO had started distributing fertilizers, seeds, water pumps and chemicals to about 270,000 farmers in 16 local government areas of Borno, to enable them to engage in rice and vegetable production.

The organisation planned to distribute farm inputs to 700,000 farmers in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe for the 2017/2018 dry season.

FAO had also distributed inputs to over one million displaced farmers during the past cropping season in the affected states.

The governor also commended the recent donation of noiler birds and eggs by natnudO Foods, saying the gesture was timely to mitigate malnutrition and create poultry entrepreneurs among the women in the state.

NAFDAC, NBMA partner on GMOs regulation

By Abolaji Adebayo

As part of efforts to ensure food security in the country, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has entered into agreement with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on how to curb the influx of Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) in the country as well as its proper regulation.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, the Head of Press, NBMA, Gloria Ogbaki, disclosed that the two agencies had finally signed a memorandum of understanding on the controlling of GMOs in the country after several months of discussion.

 

Ogbaki stated that the MoU was for the agencies to work together for the good of Nigerians, adding that the agency would not compromise GMO standard.

She said NAFDAC was a major stakeholder in Biosafety as the NBMA Act 2015 mandated NAFDAC to also be involved in the certification of GM foods.

“In view of this, the agency has been working tirelessly for several months to get this memorandum signed and it is a thing of joy to sign this today.

She said that the agency would sign memoranda with other line agencies to ensure the safe practice of modern biotechnology and use of its products just as it had done with other sister agencies like Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and National Seed Council (NASC).

Ogbaki noted that the agency was recently alerted by the Nigerian Customs Service of imported GM maize and a team of biosafety officers were sent to take sample for analyses, noting that the agency took the most responsive action by repatriating the shipment after confirmation that the maize was genetically modified.

Dry ports established for farm produce exportation, say shippers

By Abolaji Adebayo

Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) has declared that the establishment of six dry ports in all the six geo-political zones across the country was majorly to boost and facilitate easier exportation of agricultural produce by the local farmers.

It stated that it was established in the interest of the local producers to harness the opportunities available in the export sector and make the nation’s hinterland a hub of some sort with economic interest in mind.

Speaking in Lagos on Wednesday, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, said the new ports, in all the six geo-political zones, were among the facilities put in place to help local farmers espouse their products to the international community.

He advised the farmers to explore the availability of the newly-established dry ports in parts of the country to boost and espouse their local products to the international markets, adding that it was pertinent for them to add value to their produce and make them acceptable to international standard to attract foreign exchange.

“We are targeting huge exports from the ports to change the import orientation of Nigerians,’’ Bello said.

He said that efforts were being made to link all the dry ports by rail to make for easy transportation.

IFAD-VCDP empowers farmers with N8.6m rice processing equipment

By Abolaji Adebayo

In order to enable the Nigerian farmers to produce international standard rice that could compete favourably in the global market, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) on Tuesday distributed rice processing equipment worth N8.6 million to five women farmer groups in Niger.

This gesture, according to the agency, was also a step towards ensuring food security in the country as many of the imported food items were said to pose hazard constitute health hazards.

The agency added that the equipment empowerment was to promote locally made farm products and do away with importation to promote the nation’s economy.

While distributing the equipment to the farmers in Minna on Tuesday, the State Programme Coordinator, IFAD-VCDP, Dr. Mathew Ahmed, said the measure would go a long way in creating jobs.

According to him, it would also ensure that local rice farmers produce the crop in line with international best practices.

“We are here today to distribute rice processing machines to our farmers to enable them produce rice that will compete favourably with the foreign rice.

“Many of the foreign rice we eat today in Nigeria are not better than our local rice because they are expired but our local rice is fresh. Some of the foreign rice we eat constitute health hazards, hence the need for VCDP to ensure food security,’’ he said.

The equipment distributed included five rice de-stoners, 10 rice par boilers, and 46 manual sprayers.

The coordinator promised that IFAD-VCDP would subsidize the cost of the equipment, adding that the groups selected from the five participating local government areas in the VCDP applied for the equipment.

The local governments included Bida, Wushishi, Kontagora, Shiroro and Katcha.

He hinted that aside training the farmers in mechanized farming in the value chain, they were also trained in using first-bottom approach to parboil rice.

Ahmed said that IFAD has been working with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to make sure that the farmers adhere to international best practices that would make their products acceptable across the globe.

He explained that there were 13,000 farmers participating in rice and cassava value chain in the state.

In her remarks, Dr. Amina Bello, wife of the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello, commended IFAD-VCDP on the initiative, saying that it had added value to the state’s agriculture drive.

Bello, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Niger State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Kaltume Rufai, urged the beneficiaries to utilize the equipment to ensure success of the programme.

Responding on behalf of one of the beneficiary groups, the Chairman, Nufawamasu Gumi Rice Producers Association, Bida, Hadiza Yunusa, disclosed that before the intervention of IFAD-VCDP the colour of their rice was not attractive and contained impurities.

Yunusa said that the VCDP had trained them on modern ways of cultivating, processing and marketing rice.

“Now we sell our rice and cassava to other West African countries, our customers even book in advance,’’ she said.