By IME OLA
The Federal Government has commissioned one of the one-stop-shop agro input centres in Niger State. Speaking at the commissioning in Wushishi recently, Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Bukar Tijani, said the centres were constructed by the Federal Government to bring inputs closer to farmers.
“The ministry is very much mindful of the serious impediments in accessing good quality agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, agro-chemicals, seeds and seedlings, livestock feeds, veterinary drugs, tractor hiring, primary processing and extension services by farmers in a bid to maximize agricultural production output for the nation,” he said. The minister explained that these impediments, as well as government’s gradual withdrawal from direct procurement and distribution of all agricultural inputs, informed the decision to establish the centres in each local government area by 2015.
He said: “The centres are being established as part of the Agric Transformation Agenda (ATA) in the agro-input sub-sector to strengthen the food security programme of the Federal Government. They are aimed at providing market information services, promote private sector investment in viable commercial agriculture and enhance food security.” He said each of the centres has facilities for about 500 tonnes storage capacity for fertilizers, seeds and agro-chemicals, as well as providing tractor hire services, primary processing and extension support services. While noting that three of these centres are established in Niger, he added that they will enhance the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) programme of the government.
Also speaking, the Chief Servant of the state Dr. Mu’Azu Babangida Aliyu said the centre would provide easy access to farming inputs to facilitate the successful implementation of the food production recovery plan for flood victims. The governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the state government, Mr. Daniel Clifford Shashere said the state has put in place strategies for the rehabilitation of irrigation scheme to encourage dry season farming.
“We are making appreciable effort in the supply of irrigation pumps to flood victims in the state to help them regain in dry season, the farm produce lost during the flood disaster. “We are discussing with the Bank of Agriculture on how to finance 1000 farmers for the cultivation of 10,000 hectares of rice under the Niger State Rice Investment Consortium Project. This is to further boost rice production in the state and to maintain the number one position of the state in the rice sector.
“To this end, the state government has earmarked the sum of 500 million for this project in addition to the provision of 25 new tractors with implements and other agricultural equipment,” he said. The governor urged the federal government to expedite action on the establishment of the Hydro Power Producing Areas Development Commission. He commended the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in ensuring that farmers in the state benefited from the food production recovery plan through the dry-season farming. He called on Nigerians to embrace agriculture to boost the economy.
In his remarks, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Alhaji Muhammed Kwotu Abdullahi said his ministry will support the centres with two new tractors with implements to provide additional tractor hire services to farmers within Wushishi and other surrounding villages. He said 1,000 farmers will cultivate 2,000 hectares for rice under the proposed 2012 dry season farming programme in the state. He urged farmers in the state not top depend on rain fed agricultural production but to also be involved in dry season or irrigated farming to enhance agricultural productivity in the state.
“We have about sixteen irrigation schemes spread across the state that are available for farmers,” he said. On his part, President, Nigeria Agro-input Dealers Association (NAIDA) Alhaji Raufu Lawal said: “We are gradually seeing a better future for agriculture and solution to food scarcity and hunger in Nigeria through various programmes implemented by the government and targeted at poor farmers and other relevant stakeholders.”
He told the gathering that agro-input dealers in Nigeria have been playing the role of private service extension providers to farmers to complement the efforts of agric extension officers in government. To deliver good quality service to farmers, he said the facility would be put to good use in sales and services of agro-inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, crop protection products and farm machineries among others.
“The link we are holding in food production and agricultural value chain informs the need to partner with relevant stakeholders so as to create more jobs for the youth as a means of curbing crime and other social vices in our land,” he said. Alhaji Lawal assured the government that his associations would leave no stone unturned in its quest to tackle hunger and poverty.