FROM ISAAC ANUMIHE, ABUJA
Governor of Osun State, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, yesterday carpeted the Federal Government’s fertilizer distribution policy, saying it is a failure.
Speaking as a participant at the ongoing 19th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja on “Growing Agriculture at the State Level,” Aregbesola canvassed for a non-interest loan scheme for farmers in the country.
According to him, the Federal Government fertilizer distribution policy has woefully failed as not one single farmer in his state got the government’s fertilizer through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
He said that in view of the failure at the federal level, Osun State Government had to cough out a whopping N1 billion to procure fertilizer for farmers in the state.
Aregbesola, who disclosed that things were not done right in the agriculture sector, stressed that the country was doomed if everyone pretends that everything is all right.
He disclosed that the state government did everything possible to encourage farming in the state without getting good result, adding that the state cleared a large expanse of land and offered same to youths free of charge for farming.
However, he said the government’s gesture failed to yield the desired result as the envisaged young farmers refused to come.
Rather than engaging in farming, the governor said the teeming youths saw begging as more profitable than farming.
The farmers, he said, also refused to take advantage of the free rail transportation offered for farmers to transport their farm produce to Lagos for sale.
The governor explained that there has to be a change in perception and that there have to be incentives for youths to take up farming as a profession and a business.
To encourage farming in the state, he said the government had put in place Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme to take care of the needs of farmers in the state.
The state, he said, had also appointed managers who would be picking farm produce from their farm gates for onward transmission to the market to get competitive prices for agriculture products.
He said part of the problem confronting the agriculture sector was funding, insisting that if things would turn around for good in the sector, non-interest credit facilities must be extended to farmers to solve some of the problems.
Reacting to Aregbesola’s criticism of the Federal Government on the issue of fertilizer distribution, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adeshina, described as untrue the governor’s claim that no farmer got Federal Government’s fertilizer in the state.
According to him, at the recent National Council of Agriculture, all the participating state chief executives present commended the Federal Government for the better way fertilizer distribution was handled in the country.
He disclosed that the whole idea of new strategy in the distribution of fertilizer was to reform the distribution process saying that farmers in Osun could not get fertilizer 100 per cent.
Adeshina also enjoined states to partner with the Jonathan administration in its agriculture transformation agenda.
“You can clear the whole land in your state for farming but if there are no incentives, the whole efforts will come to nothing,” he said.
Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, in his own remarks on the development of agriculture in the state, said the state adopted the Federal Government Agriculture Transformation Agenda as its own with a focus on cassava and rice.
He said the state government actually encouraged the planting of rice in the flood-prone local government areas of the state through an innovative rice buy-back scheme which saw rice farmers selling their rice to the state government at a competitive price.
In his remarks, Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi emphasised the need for small-scale farmers to see agriculture as a business with a view to reducing the level of poverty in the state.
Besides, Obi said the survey carried out by the state government indicated that there was high level of poverty in those parts of the state inhabited mainly by farmers.
As a way out, he said government built access roads and other infrastructure facilities in these villages so that buyers could come and buy their produce.
The governor said the gesture had paid off for the state as farmers were able to get competitive prices for their products in addition to job opportunities created by opening up the food basket areas of the state.
Also in Cross River State, Governor Liyel Imoke said the state government saw agriculture as developmental programme to alleviate poverty.
“To alleviate poverty, agriculture must be seen as a competitive business. We are not yet there in terms of seeing agriculture as a business. In Cross River State, we set up an investment promotion bureau to promote agriculture and industry. It is a one-stop shop,” he disclosed.
Similarly, in Kebbi State, the Governor, Mallam Saidu Usman Dakingari, said the state government, in recognition of the peculiar nature of its environment, decided to develop specific strategies as well as reinforce those that are working to hasten development of agriculture, especially those areas in which the state had comparative advantage.
Such efforts, he said, included the reorganisation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Kebbi Agriculture Development Project and National Programme for Food Security and Farmers Credit and Loan Scheme, adding that the state has all year rice production which started with the introduction of Kebbi Agriculture Transformation and Self-help Initiative.