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Kebbi rice farmers to get help from Thailand

By News Desk,

Thailand’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Wattana Kunwangse, says his country will provide technical expertise in production for rice farmers in Kebbi.

Kunwangse gave the assurance on Friday when he paid a courtesy call on the Emir of Argungu, Samaila Mera, in Argungu.

“The aim of my visit to Kebbi State is to explore ways of promoting the development of the rice value chain via the training of rice farmers in new methods of rice production which we have in our country,’’ he said.

The envoy reiterated the commitment of the Thai government to train farmers and officials of the state Ministry of Agriculture in new methods of rice farming.

“Thailand’s government will sponsor rice farmers to acquire agricultural training to boost their production; our focus is to develop agriculture, particularly rice production in Kebbi State,’’ he added.

Kunwangse stressed that the bi-lateral agreement between Thailand and Kebbi State in this regard would be mutually beneficial.

He however, called for more commitment in efforts to actualise the objectives of the agreement.

Speaking, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Attahiru Maccido, said that “the state is a leading rice producer in the country, courtesy of the Anchor Borrowers Programme launched by President Muhammad Buhari in November 2015.”

Maccido said the programme had raised the production capacity of rice farmers in the state from 300,000 tonnes of rice per annum to over two million tonnes.

He pledged the state government’s readiness to partner with the Thai government or any relevant agency in efforts to develop the rice value chain in the state.

The Emir of Argungu, Mera, commended the government of Thailand and the Kebbi State Government for the collaboration aimed at boosting rice production in the state.

Flood submerges 500 rice farms in Bayelsa

By News Desk,

No fewer than 500 rice farms at Okpotuwari and Ondewari communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa, have been submerged by flood.

Ezekiel Ogbianko, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association in the state, who inspected the submerged farms on Wednesday, called on the federal and state governments to come to the aid of the affected farmers.

At Ondewari, a community leader, Prof. Itimi Godwin, said that the rice farms were ready for harvest before the disaster.

“We need a lot of things, particularly we want the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to come and see the level of damage done here.

“As you can see, this is a colossal loss; we are calling on the federal government to come to our aid, as the people here are suffering. We need relief materials such as rice, garri, cement and roofing sheets,” he said.

NAN recalls that NEMA had earlier said that over 150,000 people have been displaced by flood in Bayelsa this year.

The site manager of Ondewari Rice Farm, Mr Fredrick Adam, said the loss was colossal and the farmers would appreciate immediate support from government.

Also, the Paramount Ruler of Okpotuwari Community, Chief Tiger Moses, said that the community was expecting bountiful harvest before the flood.

“As you can see the flood is very disturbing, our crops have been destroyed, fish settlement and plantain farms are also damaged.

“We want the assistance of the federal government and other stakeholders; right now our sources of water have been contaminated,” he added.

Nigeria can feed 600 million people with right technology – Envoy

By News Desk,

The Consul-General of Denmark in Lagos, Per Christensen, on Monday said that Nigeria could produce food for some 600 million people through the application of the right technology.

Christensen said at a One-day Danish Food Tech Exhibition and Seminar in Lagos that Nigeria has a rich arable land and population for bumper food production.

He said that Nigeria, with her arable land, population and weather, had the possibility of producing more food than Brazil, if the farmers engage in technology-driven farming.

“Let me say that the agricultural development potential in Nigeria is bigger than that of Brazil when Nigerian farmers engage in technology farming.

“Nigeria can produce food for 600million people through the application of the right technology,” he said.

The consul-general said it was imperative for Nigeria to rededicate herself to increasing food production for Nigerians, as well as regaining her position as a net food exporter.

He said that agriculture was an area of common interest to Denmark and Nigeria, and Danish companies were prepared to introduce farming technology to Nigerian farmers.

Christensen said that the development of agriculture should be an important area of cooperation for Nigeria and Denmark in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to him, there are currently about 30,000 full time farmers involved in food and dairy products production in Denmark.

He said that the Food Tech Exhibition and Seminar was organised to expose stakeholders in Nigeria’s agriculture sector to the existing technology for food processing and value Chain.

The visiting Danish companies are active in areas of logistics and cold chain, breeding and genetics, agro-industry and processing equipment, food and grain analytical equipment, ingredient and financing.

The Marketing Manager of BIC Electric, Ms Katarzyna Michalczyk, said she was in Nigeria to meet Nigerians and know of the existing opportunities for her company in Nigeria.

Michalczyk, a representative of one of the visiting Danish companies, said that the company would soon start doing business in West Africa, which would create sustainable jobs for local people.

IITA wins Africa food prize

By News Desk,

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan has won the distinguished Africa Food Prize for demonstrated innovations to improve “food security” in Africa.

The pioneer in the field of “food security innovation” was announced the winner on the sidelines of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda.

According to an official statement the research institution is the first African institution to receive such distinguished award.

The independent Africa Food Prize Committee, chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has selected IITA for its deep commitment over many decades to producing a steady stream of innovations, the statement said.

Reports show that these innovations have especially boosted the nutrition and incomes of millions of people across Africa.

Commenting on the award, the former Nigerian president noted that IITA stood out for its “steadfast and inspiring commitment to a research agenda that aligns with both our African traditions, as well as the evolving needs of African farmers and consumers for the latest advances in food production.”

“From the cassava we’re still eating today, to the valuable and nutritious soybeans we now grow in our fields, to maize varieties that can withstand drought and deadly toxins – our diets and our agriculture businesses would be much poorer today without IITA’s leadership, and its willingness to forge powerful bonds with African farmers and African communities,” he said.

According to official estimates, overall, for Africans, the value of the crops developed by IITA and its partners now stands at US$ 17 billion and counting.

It said that this is underscoring the research entity’s contribution to not only Africa’s agriculture, but its economy as well.

Speaking as he received the Prize on behalf of his institution, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s Director General, insisted on the impact of research carried out to be scaled up and made available to millions of farmers.

“I’m extremely honoured to be receiving this prize on behalf of IITA and proud to be part of a group of researchers dedicated to building lasting and relevant solutions for the continent,” said Sanginga.

CBN extends loans to 33,000 farmers

By News Desk,

No fewer than 33,974 rice farmers in Zamfara state are to benefit from the Anchor Borrowers loan of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Zamfara said on Thursday that the farmers have gone through biometric data capturing exercise in the state.

The Chairman of the Association, Isyaku Ajiya-Anka, said each farmer would receive one pumping machine, 30 kilograms of rice seedlings and six bags of fertiliser.

The total loan package is N219, 329.50 per hectare.

As part of the package, the farmers will receive herbicide, pesticide, farming services, which included ploughing, harrowing, planting and harvesting.

Ajiya-Anka said the farmers would not get the cash directly.

“For farmers who do not require all the services, the cost of services not required will be used to offset part of the loan.’’

State Coordinator of CBN Anchor Borrowers , Aliyu Hafiz, said every farmer has a card which contains all his details and the required quantities of inputs he should be given.

He said the distribution of the inputs had started in seven local government areas.

The councils are Gusau, Bungudu, Gummi, Bakura, Anka, Kaura Namoda and Talata Mafara.

Stakeholders advocate organic farming policies to protect ecosystem

By News Desk

Stakeholders in the organic farming space on Thursday in Lagos urged the Federal Government to institute policies that would promote organic farming so as to protect the country’s ecosystem.

The stakeholders spoke at the National Organic Agriculture Business Summit 2018.

The summit is aimed at addressing the various challenges facing the organic agriculture sub-sector, as they affect the people’s health and the environment.

Prof. Akin Abayomi, who manages a 300-acre organic bio-habitat forest conservation project in Osun State, said that there was urgent need for a paradigm shift towards the evolution of a pollution-free environment.

Abayomi, who is also an oncologist and internal medicine specialist, said that the focus should be on organic living that was free of pollution in the real sense.

“Taking organic foods in a polluted environment does not make sense; there is no point in doing that. Hence, we should change our thoughts from organic agriculture to organic living.

“If you want to kill a pest with an insecticide and you are exposed to the same chemical; then, you are killing yourself.

“There should be an urgent paradigm shift towards living in an environment that is free of pollution and doing things that are not harmful to the ecosystem.

“Organic agriculture in its natural habitat should be encouraged; while a stop should be made to the use of harmful chemicals that are harming the country’s ecosystem, ‘’ he said.

Besides, Ayobami said that it would take over 200 years to grow a forest.

He, however, said that with the growing population of Africa and Nigeria in particular, the production of foods via genetic modification was inevitable.

Mr Ajibola Oluyede, the Chairman of NICERT Ltd., said that the movement for organic agriculture was beginning to gain ground, while the issue of certification needed a national plan to ensure international standards.

He said that efforts should be made to separate genuine organic farmers from the fake ones, so as to ensure that all organic produce in the market were of good quality.

“The Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria (NOAN) has encouraged a practice which is built on the standards of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

“The association does certification for some members for the Nigerian practice but in terms of commercial recognition, our organic farmers ought to be accredited by the regulatory bodies involved in that.

“NICERT is credited to enforce European Union (EU) standards for organic products as well as other countries. Nevertheless, Nigeria does not have an organic programme through which bodies may be credited.

“However, if you are producing what is organic, it must meet international standards. We need certification for organic producers because any farming process that does not help the ecosystem is not organic,’’ he said.

Oluyede, who noted that there was a high demand for organic produce in many foreign countries, said that the demand was somewhat insignificant in Nigeria because of the absence of legal standards.

On his part, Prof. Victor Olowe, the National President of NOAN and an agronomist in the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said that the association certified organic products for local consumption.

He said that the association currently used a process called Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for local retail trade in organic produce, adding, however, that any plan to export organic produce would require third party certifications.

“On certification, NOAN certifies organic products for local consumption with the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), which is satisfactory for local consumption and retailers.

“For a producer taking organic products outside the Nigerian shores, he will need a third party certification from the appropriate body.

“All organic products carry labels which distinguish them from conventional farm produce, they also carry the labels to facilitate traceability,’’ he said.

However, Olowe said that the level of organic farming was very low globally, adding that only two per cent of the total arable lands were allocated to organic agriculture globally.

He also said that the association was making tangible efforts to boost organic farming, while working towards the production a bill on organic agriculture that would set an agenda for the development of the sub-sector.

The summit was convened by the Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) Initiative in Nigeria, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, NOAN and the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria, among others.

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.