Agriculture

Farmers utilise only 44 percent of farm land – Minister

From Teryima Ajijah, Jos

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammed Mahamood Abubakar has revealed that Nigerian farmers are under utilising available farmland.

The minister stated this in Jos, Plateau State, at the official opening and closing ceremony of the 45th National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD) which ended in Jos Thursday.

Dr Abubakar revealed that “Nigeria is endowed with a total of 79 million hectares of agricultural land with only 44% being cultivated.”

He also noted Nigeria has enough water for aquatic and irrigation farming “the nation also has 267 billion cubic meters fresh surface water and 58 billion cubic meters underground water, with 37 billion cubic meters only stored in dams. Annual rainfall in the country is within the 300mm to 4,000mm. Conversely,” he noted.

He revealed to the gathering, successes made by the present administration in improving on agricultural sector for maximum use.

“We facilitated the production and distribution of 920MT of assorted improved seeds (breeder, foundation and high breed seeds) of cashew, sesame, sorghum, maize, rice, as well as the distribution of 67,000 litres of agro-chemicals to 1,397,469 farmers and 14,785 agricultural equipment, material, tools, groundnut processing machines, rice mills, cashew processing machines, oil palm processing mills with components, tractors, combine harvester tricycles for farmers, colour sorter and 2000 knapsack sprayers to farmers across the country.

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, while declaring the event open, said his administration has placed priority on agriculture for the past seven years of his administration as governor of the state.

“As a government, we have over the last seven years given enormous attention to agriculture by ensuring the provision of farm inputs such as tractors, fertilizers, chemicals, improved seedlings and many more towards ensuring that our people benefit from the natural endowments of the state,” he said.

Governor Lalong charged the forum to ensure meaningful outcome from the four-day stakeholders meeting on agriculture.

“I challenge this council to rise from this meeting with concrete and practical ways of ensuring that farmers add value to their products before selling them. This will not only boost the economic fortunes of the farmers, but also birth a chain of MSEs that will create jobs and usher in prosperity for our people. Many youths will be taken out of poverty and crime will fall because they will be engaged,” he said.

The Plateau state governor reiterated the need to find lasting solution to potato blight. “Let me use this opportunity to draw the attention of the minister to the increased incidences of devastation of potato farms by potato blight disease which has almost wiped out the existing low yielding and degenerated seeds,” he stated.

The governor called for creation of state police, which according to him, shall address insecurities been face by farmers; nothing that it will provide needed security for farmers to cultivate more at all seasons.

Speaking at the occasion, Chairman, Council of Chiefs Plateau State; The Gbong Gwom Jos, His Royal Majesty Jacob Gyang Buba, expressed disappointment that loans made for farmers are been diverted to people who have no business with farming.

“Loans are given to non farmers, while genuine farmers are left stranded,” he said.

The Gbong Gwom Jos called on facilitators of the NCARD annual meeting to reveal policies and programme and ensure implementation of programme meant for developing agriculture in Nigeria.

On his part, Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Mohammed Bimma, who also delivered a speech at the event suggested that agricultural research centres be properly equipped with modern facilities to maximize productivity.

A communiqué is expected from the meeting which will seek to address challenges bedeviling the agricultural sector in Nigeria.

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