EU labels Egyptian goose, alligator weed as dangerous

By NewsDesk

The European Commission on Wednesday added 12 species to list of so-called invasive aliens, among them the Egyptian goose and alligator weed.

A statement by the EU noted that invasive alien species were one of the major causes of biodiversity loss, and had significant negative economic impact on healthcare costs, crop yields, fish stocks and infrastructure.

It stated that the Egyptian goose, recognised as an agricultural pest in South Africa, was known to be aggressive toward other birds, drowning other species and taking over nesting sites.

The EU statement indicated that most Egyptian geese reported in Europe were escapees from parks or captivity.

The new list also includes common milkweed, Nuttall’s waterweed, giant rhubarb, giant cow parsnip, Himalayan balsam, Japanese stiltgrass, watermilfoil, the raccoon dog, the muskrat and crimson fountain grass.

Meanwhile, EU member states were required to prevent the listed species from being introduced, kept, sold, transported, reproduced or released.

Kaduna farmers raise fear of low yield

By NewsDesk

Some farmers in Kaduna State have raised the fear of having low yield in the 2017 cropping season due to lack of inputs to work with.

A cross-section of the farmers, who spoke to newsmen on Wednesday, wondered why the state government could not provide the inputs.

They said most farmers were yet to receive fertilizer and variety of seeds as promised by the state government, three months after the wet season had set in.

A farmer, Saminu Rigachikun, said they waited and waited but nothing up to now. And ot even the fertilizers that used use their money to procure.

“How will the government say it’s committed to the ordinary farmer to produce more food for local consumption and export when it cannot  provide the basic items and services to the farmer,’’ Rigachikun asked.

He alleged that the state government had directed farmers to forward details of their cooperative groups and all necessary bank details for agricultural loans, but months after nothing has happened.

Another farmer, Bello Bature, said most farmers had since April completed formalities for the loan, but the  was yet to respond.

“All the necessary documentation have been made and submitted to the officials handling the loan scheme. It’s over three or four months now, but from all indications the state government will not do anything to assist the farmers and time is running out,’’ Bature said.

Another farmer, Jummai Bako was also unhappy with regards to their inability to access the loan and other vital inputs.

“We are still calling on the state government to fulfil the promises made to farmers and provide them with improved varieties of Rice seeds, Soy beans. We are also crying out for help to procure fertilizers at a subsidize rate.”

“Fadama farmers also need to be assisted with water pumps, among other farming inputs which they require to facilitate production in the state. Already wet season rice and maize farmers are out there battling with the little they could get after waiting in pains for inputs from government.  Kebbi state is an example in terms of rice and Jigawa state in wheat production, among many other states, “ Bako said.

“Their state governments gave them all the needed support to increase production and look at where they are now. Kebbi produces rice in millions of tones,’’ she stated.

However, it was gathered that most farmers who benefited from the agricultural loans in the 2016 farming season were not refunding.

It was learnt that the state government was yet to recover the N4 billion released under the CBN anchor borrower’s programme.

An information officer in the state Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Development, Dahiru Abdullahi , said that more than 11,000 farmers benefited from the scheme.

Abdullahi said that despite setting up of a task force for loans recovery, the state government had not recovered half of the loan given to farmers during the 2016 crop season.

Minister targets November for rice production self sufficiency, reduction in commodity price

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The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development,  Audu Ogbeh, has said that the country would be self sufficient in rice production by November, which he said would force a reduction in the price of the commodity.

Ogheh frowned on what he called the people’s unbridled penchant and taste for foreign foods, most of which, he said, were not as healthy and nutritious as those produced locally.

The minister made the assurance while addressing a town hall meeting on sustainable agriculture, which was attended by farmers, youths, women and other stakeholders in agriculture, held in Ibadan, Oyo State capital yesterday.

The dialogue, which featured question and answer session, was hosted by the Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, and the Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Prince Oyewole Oyewumi.

The meeting, which was called to chart a new path for agriculture rebirth, climaxed a two-day working visit by the minister to agricultural facilities, including farms, dams, farm settlements and others across the state.

Ogheh lamented what he called the culture of wastages and abandonment in the country, which, he said, accounted for decaying facilities and monuments dotting the landscape.

“By November we will be self sufficient in rice production. We will no longer need to import rice. And let me tell you, our rice is safer, tastier and healthier than the foreign ones. “Patronize our farmers, eat healthy. Eat Nigerian rice,” he said.

“ Another cheering news is that we will soon bring down the price of rice. Nigerians should embrace local products and stop importation of useless things. We are a country that has penchant for importation without exporting anything,” Ogheh stated.

In fact, some people will even order for pizza from London for delivery by British Airways. They will tell you London pizza tastes better. We import champagnes, cookies, toilet papers and even toothpicks. We have this taste for foreign products. This is killing us, it is killing our economy,” he stated.

The minister, who disclosed that Oyo State topped the list of cashew producers in the country, said that a cashew processing plant would be established in the state within the next six months.

While urging the governor to prevail on land owners to surrender them for agricultural purposes, he said that the Federal Government Government was prepared to join hands with the state government on its agric revolution.

He expressed regret that overdependence of the country on accruals from oil production had robbed it of the development of other sectors, especially agriculture, which he said was once the nation’s cash cow.

“For instance, I was almost in tears when I got to Ikere Gorge Dam yesterday (Monday) and saw the magnitude of waste and what Nigeria is losing from its abandonment since 1982. It is pathetic. This dam has the capacity to irrigate 12,000 hectares of farm land,” the minister said.

He said that he remembered that they visited the dam in 1982 and brought the required turbines to complete the project and he  almost wept when he met the turbines lying fallow at the dam without being fixed.

“This was a dam that has capacity to generate at least seven megawatts of electricity. Ikere is just one of the 22 dams in Oyo State, which is the second highest in Nigeria next to Kano that has 23 dams.

“We fought the civil war with revenue from agriculture, with at least $1m (today’s N367m) per day. The money came from cocoa, groundnut, soya beans and the rest. But today, the disappearance of oil money has exposed our nakedness,” Ogheh stated.

In his remarks, Ajimobi commended the federal government for its commitment to the survival of the country through initiatives such as the latest agriculture renaissance.

The governor recalled that many monuments located in Ibadan, which were mostly the first of their kind in Africa, such as the Liberty Stadium, Cocoa House, University of Ibadan, the Nigerian Television Authority and others were built with proceeds from agriculture.

He appealed to the people to change their mentality that are inimical to the growth of agriculture, which he said was paramount to the economic survival of the country.

“I don’t know why we are shunning agriculture. I want to put it on record here that I’m also a farmer, because the country’s law did not forbid the president, governors and other political office holders from going into farming.

“Oyo must become the food basket of the nation. No agric, no food and when there is no food, there is no life and no living, no nation. To survive and live well you must make money. The money is in agriculture,” Ajimobi stated.

“The FG is now providing many incentives for the people to embrace agriculture. We need to start thinking of the future today. Let us think of agriculture today for our survival. Let us all work. Let us all do agriculture.

“The highest employer of labour in an underdeveloped country like Nigeria is agriculture. We are underdeveloped because any nation that cannot feed its people is underdeveloped,” he added.

Ajimobi restated the preparedness of the state to partner the FG to complement its agric projects aimed at enhancing food sufficiency in the country.

FG to distribute 500,000 farm inputs to farmers

By NewsDesk

The Director, Farm Input Support Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ohiare Jatto ,has disclosed that Federal Government is to start distribution of farm inputs to farmers for the 2017 wet season farming in August.

Jatto, speaking to newsmen on Monday in Abuja, said that at least 300,000 to 500,000 farmers across the country would benefit from the programme, adding that the setback experienced in the distribution of the inputs, under the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme, was as due to the delay in the release of the 2017 budget.

“We still owe agro dealers a lot of money and we want to clear the debt as soon as we have money to enable them to participate in the programme,’’ he said.

The director said that although the Federal Government had settled part of the debt owed during the 2014 wet season and 2014/2015 dry season farming, the money paid was insignificant, when compared to the outstanding one.

“There will be farm inputs for farmers this year but the timing is the factor.We are still hoping to start inputs distribution between the last week of July and first week of August, all things being equal, if we are able to pay the agro dealers. We know that agriculture is time-bound and we are bothered. We are thinking that by now, money would have been released but up till now, it has not been released and this is delaying our operations,” he explained.

“This has been the problem; the Federal Ministry of Finance has commenced the payment but the money released was small because some of the agro dealers are already indebted to banks.“ The government agreed to pay them in instalments for the 2014 and 2014/2015 wet and dry season farming until the whole debt is cleared. For the 2016/2017 dry season farming, we are planning to pay them 100 per cent,” he added.

Agro dealers in May staged a protest, asking the Federal Government to settle their N39 billion claims from the GES scheme.

The Federal Government had, however, approved N12.5 billion as part-payment for the claims.

Minister advises FG’s  yam export policy critics to grow yam

By NewDesk

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh , has advised critics of the Federal Government yam export policy to grow the commodity.

Ogheh, while addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday, dismissed the criticisms of the policy, saying that the effort was in the best interest of the nation’s economy.

He said the energies being dissipated by critics in condemning the initiative could be better used to produce yam, a staple in most parts of the country.

The minister, who allayed the fears of some Nigerians who believed that the policy would lead to shortage of yam in the country, said there is currently there is currently a glut in yam production in the domestic market.

“I have seen attacks on the social media. There are questions all over as to why we are exporting yam when Nigerians are said to be hungry. With all due respect, Nigeria accounts for 61 per cent of the world output of yam. We have 60 varieties of yam in this country,” the minister explained

“In fact, 30 per cent of the yams we produce get rotten because we don’t have facilities to preserve them. Ghana is a famous country for exportation of the commodity, but most of the yam they export is from us. There has never been shortage of yam in the country. Prices might be high toward the end of the season, but new yam is already in the market,” he added.

Critics of the policy believe that investment in local processing of yams into finished products is of more economic benefit to the country than exporting the commodity.

But the minister dismissed this suggestion, arguing that export made more economic sense than processing.

“Analysts are saying that we are supposed to add more value to yam production in order to earn more money, fantastic view. But they forget to tell us how much a tuber of yam costs in the USA. Three kilogrammes cost 15 dollars, which is equivalent to about N5, 000,” he said.

“In London, a cartoon of yam, this contains three tubers, costs 30 pounds, bringing the average cost per tuber to 10 pounds. At that price, it is more sensible to export to earn more money for our economy. Economy is 90 per cent common sense,” Ogheh said.

According to him, foreign trade partners came to complain when Nigeria limited its food imports.

The minister commended the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) for setting guidelines for yam exporting, promising that the standards would be adhered to.

Ogbeh urged the commissioners of agriculture in states to keep on educating farmers to use the right yam seedlings to increase their output.

 

Ebonyi govt borrows N10bn to assist farmers, boost agricultural activities

By NewsDesk

The Ebonyi State Government has borrowed N10 billion from Federal Government to finance agricultural activities and to assist farmers in the state.

The State Governor, David Umah, told newsmen in Abakaliki, the state capital on Friday that the credit would be used to support farmers and domesticate rice production in the state, adding that the state government would also establish Mega Rice Cities in the various local government areas of the state to boost rice production.

“We have also borrowed some funds under CARTS from the Federal Government. We borrowed N2billion, we will be paying off in the next 3 months, of course we borrowed another N5 billion and another N3 billion.

“We want to domesticate rice production in Ebonyi State and we are going beyond individual production. We are now beginning to see how we can institute what we call rice mega cities in each local government area where by we have 5,000 hectares of land dedicated for rice production in each of our local government areas,” Umahi said.

He disclosed that four rice mills are currently in operation, adding that the state government had imported another three sets of rice mills which would install in the next three to four months.

The governor, who said that before the middle of next year the state would be able to have one rice mill in each local government area, added that the idea is to maintain the nutritious quality of the rice produced in the state with a view to making it compete internationally.

According to Umahi, the state is planning to cultivate 100,000 hectares of land to produce 400,000 tonnes of rice in the next two years.

He explained that government was already supporting farmers with inputs and subsidies and that buyers from neighbouring African countries were patronising the rice market in the state.

ABU varsity secures three new maize varieties approval for Nigerian farmers

By NewsDesk

The Ahmadu Bello University(ABU), Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) in Zaria has secured approval for release of three new high-yielding nutrient maize varieties for planting in Nigeria.

The institute said that the maize approval was granted by National Varietal Release Committee at the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology in Ibadan.

The Institute, which disclosed the development in a statement made available to newsmen on Wednesday in Lagos, said that the maize was developed by IAR in collaboration with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

The statement stated that the maize varieties tagged ‘SAMMAZ 52, SAMMAZ 53 and SAMMAZ 54’ were offshoots of extensive on-station, multi-locational and on-farm’ evaluations with strong farmer participation.

It maintained that the varieties were desirable to many maize farmers, seed companies, and food processing entrepreneurs, agro-allied industries as well as consumers across Nigeria.

“SAMMAZ 52 is an improvement over previously released varieties as a result of bio- fortification with pro Vitamin A. This Vitamin A bio-fortified maize variety has yield potential of 6.0 ton/ha, about 24 per cent higher than earlier release varieties in the same category. It has medium maturing of between 110 and 120 days, tolerant to maize streak virus, rust, leaf blight and curvularia leaf spot,” the statement said.

“The SAMMAZ 53 and SAMMAZ 54 varieties are bred for high grain yields up to 7.6 t/ha and 7.2 t/ha. Both varieties are extra early maturity (80-85 days) and resistant to maize streak virus, rust, leaf blight and curvularia leaf spot.

“They perform very well in northern Guinea and Sudan savanna environments where climate changes are manifesting in the form of droughts, dry spells and in ecologies where parasitic Striga hermonthica attacks are severe owing to declining soil nitrogen,” the statement added.

The institute added that the varieties were produced to strengthen farmers’ resilience in coping with the changing production environments in which irrigation water and rainfall had become increasingly scarce.

It said that the commercialisation and adoption of the varieties was expected to significantly improve food and nutrition security as well as the livelihood of actors along the maize value chain.

EU will lift 3yrs export ban on Agric. produce soon-FG

By NewsDesk

The Federal Government has assured Nigerians that European Union (EU), would in few months uplift the export ban on some Nigerian produce to the continent.

It came barely two years after EU suspended some of Nigeria’s food items like beans, sesame seeds, melon seeds, fried fish, meat and peanut chips, among others, from entering European countries till June 2016 but later extended it to three years beginning from last year.

The Coordinating-Director, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), an agency that protects cultivated crops and natural flora from destructive foreign plant pests, Dr. Vincent Isegbe, made the assertion during an interview with newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja.

He hinted that the service and other relevant government agencies were working to ensure the removal of the three-year old ban in the first quarter of 2018.

It would be recalled that the presidency set up an inter-ministerial committee on zero-reject of the country’s agricultural produce to the international markets in 2016.

The committee, according to him, is to look into issues that led to the suspension at the first instance and what caused the extension of the ban as well as to find solution to the problem.

“The committee, comprising the service, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Federal Ministry of Health, among others, has made progress so far. Excess agricultural produce is meant to be exported since we are diverting from oil to agriculture,” Isegbe said.

“The main objective is that whatever goes out of this country should not return to us either inform of rejection of low standard quality. The three years ban will expire in 2019 but we are working round to ensure the ban is lifted in 2018,’’ he added.

World Food Prize organiser justifies Nigeria ex-minister’s choice as 2017 winner

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The World Food Prize Foundation has justified reasons former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi  Adesina, who served under former President, Goodluck Jonathan, was adjudged winner of 2017 World Food Prize Laureate prize.

Adesina was announced this year’s winner of the $250,000 prize at a ceremony in  United States(U.S) organised by Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. yesterday.

The President of the Foundation, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, said on Tuesday that Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), won the prize because of his driving change in African agriculture for over the last 25 years and improving food security for millions across the continent.

Quinn explained that the selection of Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture as the 46th winner and sixth African to claim the prize, reflected both his breakthrough achievements as Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria.

“Adesina led a major expansion of commercial bank lending to farmers as Vice President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, introduced the E-Wallet system,” he said

According to him, Adesina also introduced initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent and galvanized the political will to transform African agriculture.

Quinn added that Adesina grew up in poverty himselfand embarked on a journey to use his academic training tolift up millions of people out of poverty, especially farmers in rural Africa.

He explained that as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture from 2011 to 2015, Adesina successfully transformed his country’s agriculture sector through bold reforms.

Quinn said the bold reforms included creating programmes to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production, and to make cassava become a major cash crop.

He pointed out that in 2006, as Associate Director for Food Security at the Rockefeller Foundation, Adesina played a critical leadership role in organizing the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja.

He said the summit was described as absolutely essential in igniting the campaign to spread a new Green Revolution across Africa, which led to the creation of AGRA.

“Our Laureate next played a leadership role in the development of AGRA, during which he led the effort to exponentially expand commercial credit for the agricultural sector and for farmers across the continent.

“And then, as Minister of Agriculture of his home country Nigeria, our Laureate introduced the E-Wallet system which broke the back of the corrupt elements that had controlled the fertilizer distribution system for 40 years.

“The reforms he implemented increased food production by 21 million metric tonnes and attracted 5.6 billion dollars in private sector investments, thus earning him the reputation as the ‘Farmer’s Minister,” he said.

Quinn said as the first person from agriculture to ever lead a regional development bank, Adesina’s receiving the Laureate Prize would give impetus in the coming decade to his profound vision.

Adesina would be presented the $250,000 prize and Laureate sculpture at a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol on October 19.

FG plans training farmers on yam exportation

By NewsDesk

Nigerian farmers are to undergo training in best agronomic practices in yam farming, aimed to assist them in acquiring skills that would aid international acceptance of their farm produce.

The training which would be conducted by the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme (NYEP), was part of the Federal Government strategy to diversify the country’s source of revenue.

The Chairman of the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme (NYEP), Prof. Simon Irtwange, told newsmen in Abuja on Monday, that poor agronomic practices during farming contributed to the rejection of the country’s produce.

Irtwange said that the training was necessary to equip the farmers with best practices to enable their farm produce attract international patronage.

The Federal Government had announced that the country would commence exportation of about 74 tonnes of yam to Europe and United States of America (USA) by June 29.

The chairman said the committee would partner Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association in the country, to carry out the training.

He noted that the training would help sensitise farmers on the use of pesticides as well as other requirements for the produce, adding that that the committee was also in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), to provide improved yam seedlings to the farmers.

“The committee is supposed to provide technical guidance for anybody who wants to go into yam export. The exporter must be conversant with the standards for yam export and it the job of the committee to take exporters through the standards so that they will know what the requirements are.

“The committee will also make sure that farmers under the Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, are trained on farming, processing and marketing. IITA has told us that seedlings will be made available and we want to promote businesses around the yam seedlings value chain,’’ he added.

Irtwange said that the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), had made its yam conditioning centre in Zaki Biam, Benue State, available to exporters for the cleaning, wrapping and packaging of the produce before export.

“The first requirement for any intending yam exporter is to get your exporters registration certificate from the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, then you come to the technical committee and we show you what to do. What we are trying to have is a Nigerian yam pack house in Lagos and all regulatory agencies will be there to certify the produce.

“The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) will be there to make sure that it is truly yams that are in the cartons, SON will be there to make sure that the yams are exportable varieties and conform to standard weighing about 2kg with a net weight of 20kg per carton.

“The Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) will also be there to make sure we do not export diseases to other countries,’’ the chairman said.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, inaugurated the committee in February to sensitise farmers and exporters on required international standards of yam before exportation.

The committee which is private sector led, has representatives from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) as its members.

Other members of the committee include the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), NEPC, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), among others.