Nigeria’s deficit in rice production to meet local demand is closing at a faster rate with 500,000 metric tonnes drop. Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development made this development known in Abuja, the country’s capital.
This is coming as farmers under the aegis of the Enugu State Amalgamated Farmers’ Cooperative Society are decrying their alienation from accessing federal and state government loans.
Leader of the Cooperative, Chief Obi Okonkwo, made this known during a courtesy visit to the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Okonkwo led other members of the cooperative to visit the ex-deputy in Enugu. According to him, one of the major challenges facing the farmers is their inability to access loans from both the federal and Enugu state governments.
He said, “we don’t always have access to the loans for farmers given by the state government or the Federal Government via the Central Bank of Nigeria. We would like you to assist us in this regard.
Responding, Ekweremadu pledged to assist the farmers in their quest to access loans. He noted that it was necessary to address the issue as a failure to do so could hamper the development of mechanised agriculture in the state.
He said, “we will do something possible to address the problem and support you. Your counterparts in the North have been getting the loan and I do not know you people have not been getting. We hope to change the farming you do here to modern and advanced farming as is done abroad. We hope to replicate advanced farming or agriculture in this part of the world.
“Your coming today is to lay the foundation for a better tomorrow and we are forming a partnership this morning. I am going to pay more attention to the CBN agric loan since you have mentioned it.”
However, Deputy Director of Information in the federal agric ministry, Mrs Eno Olotu, says the country will soon close the gap and meet up with the required seven million metric tonnes to attain self-sufficiency in rice production for the country.
Olotu also disclosed that the ministry has received farm inputs from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to support smallholder rice farmers in nine states of the federation.
The items received by the ministry include 1,500 bags of certified rice seeds, 6,000 bags of NPK Fertilizer, 3,000 bags of urea fertilizer, 1, 500 litres of soul amender, 7,500 litres of herbicide and 6,000 litres of pesticide.
The nine beneficiary states are Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Bauchi, Taraba, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Kebbi. Director of Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) of the ministry, Mrs Karima Babaginda, received the inputs on behalf of the government.
Babaginda, who explained that the development would help to boost rice production in the country, further extended the government’s appreciation to JICA.
On his part, chief representative of JICA in Nigeria, Nakagawa Takayuki, noted that the inputs were targeted at 1,500 small-scale rice farmers for the dry season rice farming.
“We also plan to provide the inputs to 1,000 small scale farmers in 10 states namely: Borno, Gombe, Kogi, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Ogun, Taraba and Oyo for the wet season farming,” Takayuki said.
The Japanese rep, however, pledged the agency’s support for FMARD in the areas of extension service delivery to small-scale farmers.
He also assured of the agency cooperation in the area of capacity building and infrastructural development.