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Nigerians will benefit from border closure—Minister

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Alhaji Mustapha Baba-Shehuri, the Minister of State, Agriculture and Rural Development, says Nigerians would benefit from the border closure policy adopted by the Federal Government.

Baba-Shehuri said this while fielding questions from newsmen on Saturday in Maiduguri.

He described the measure as a right decision that would be of great benefits to Nigerians in view of its positive impacts on social and economic development of the country.

The minister noted that Nigeria as a country could not continue to rely on importation of food commodities to feed its estimated 200 million population.

The minister added that the measure would boost local production and create jobs for more youths and women in the country.

According to him, available statistics indicates that Nigeria consumes 30 per cent of the 100 per cent total food importation in Africa, while over 50 per cent of the food importation to Cameroun, Ghana, Benin, Chad and Niger Republics, targeted Nigerian markets.

Baba-Shehuri said,“We are a nation of 200 million people; there is no nation on earth with the size of our population or even less that rely on importing everything that it will eat, it is absolutely impossible.

“In this country, we even import tomato, cabbage, eggs and everything that we eat.

“We need to ask ourselves for how long can our economy sustain it and what is our focus as a people?

“We have a population of about 80 million youths but we keep creating jobs elsewhere.

“We have very energetic, patriotic, able, physically and mentally fit youth who are
ready to put in their best for the development of the country.

“The youth were denied the opportunity because as leaders we lost focus and certain decisions are not taken, it cannot continue this way,” the minister said.

Baba-Shehuri emphasised the need for Nigerians to understand the motive behind government’s decisions, adding that the measure was for the interest of the country.

The minister, however, pointed out that the Federal Government had adopted viable programmes geared toward creating jobs through effective utilisation of agricultural resources.

He added that the programmes would focus at reinvigorating agriculture, encourage productions for self-sufficiency, value addition and enhance farmer enterprising skills as well as create market and promote export.

Baba-Shehuri called on Nigerians to support government’s policies and programmes for sustainable social and economic development.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the minister inaugurated the maiden Northeast Farmer Help Line Center in Maiduguri as part of his two-day working visit to Borno.

The minister had also visited the Lake Chad Research Institute, and the temporary site of the Federal College of Freshwater and Fishery Technology, Baga.

He also visited Maiduguri GSM market where he donated N5 million to the victims of the recent fire incident in the market.
RSA/IK/ MTM

Edited by Ikenna Uwadileke/Tukur Muntari.

Agriculture

FGN/IFAD -VCDP to support 9, 000 farmers in Anambra in 2020

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The Federal Government/International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD)-Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), says it plans to support over 9,000 farmers in Anambra in 2020 under the additional financing.

Mr Nnamdi Agwuncha, the State Programme Coordinator, -VCDP disclosed this in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency in Awka on Wednesday.

Agwuncha, who expressed satisfaction with the programme, said it had spent over N300 million as at Oct. 31, in encouraging rice and cassava production during the 2019 farming season.

According to him, VCDP added three new Local Government Areas namely: Ihiala, Ogbaru and Orumba South this year that now benefit from our services and farm inputs support in both rice and cassava crops.

He gave the previous benefitting Local Government Areas as Orumba North, Awka North, Ayamelum, Anambra East and Anambra West.

“This year, 1, 670 farmers have so far benefitted as against 1, 001 farmers in 2018.

“We have got approval for additional financing, which will commence next year. This was as a result of the improvement in the programme and performance by farmers,’’ he said.

He said the N300 million was spent on input/seedling and agro-chemical disbursement, land development/preparation, building of aggregation and cassava bulking centres, provision of water schemes and rice processing mills.

Other areas of support include building of market stalls, construction of small bridges to provide access roads to farm lands as well as provision of solar powered borehole, among others.

“In terms of yield, average yield of six tons of rice was recorded in 2019 as against 5.5 tons in 2018, while an average yield of 35 tons per hectare was recorded in 2019 as against 30 tons for cassava.

“In our 2020 annual work plan and budget, we have planned to support 3, 000 (2, 000 and 1, 000) farmers for rice and cassava production respectively.

“Other 6, 000 VCDP profiled farmers would benefit in all the VCDP training and extension services,” he said.

On border closure by the Federal Government, Agwuncha said it was long overdue, and urged farmers to seize the opportunity to excel in providing food and employment for the country.

“As a matter of fact, I had expected that to have happened a long time because there is no basis to make Nigeria a dumping ground.

“When the team visited the state in 2015, they went round and concluded that Anambra had the potential to feed Nigeria in terms of rice.

“If you open the borders, it affects the efforts of farmers. I expect the Federal Government to close the borders so we look inwards because we have the human and natural endowment to produce rice that will feed Africa,” he said.

The programme coordinator, however, advised the Federal Government to improve its support to agriculture by constructing rural roads and subsidising inputs, among other supports.

Edited by Kabir Muhammad/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Agriculture

Jigawa women farmers solicit farm inputs, gender-friendly equipment

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The Jigawa State Chapter of Smallholder Women Farmers in Nigeria (SWOFON), on Wednesday solicited for farm inputs and gender friendly equipment from government.

Hajiya Hadiza Abdulwahab, SWOFON State Coordinator, who presented a list of the requests to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, described it as a progressive step for communities where farming was their main occupation.

Abdulwahab said the provision of gender friendly equipment according to the needs and strength of women would go a long way to relieve women of fatigue.

The Coordinator solicited for 67, 915 bags of fertiliser, 10, 000 bags of rice seed, 3, 583 bags of maize seed, 2, 718 power tillers and 2, 718 hand planters.

She said the move had become imperative because the backbone of any agricultural revolution was farmers’ access to modern agricultural inputs.

The Coordinator noted that the gesture would directly improve the output of small-scale women farmers in the state and would also make them more productive, as well as ensure increased income for them.

She added that in the long run, there would be an improvement in the livelihoods of the women farmers, as they would be able to provide for themselves, their families and communities.

Abdulwahab said women were determined to end hunger; and it was a known fact that if women had equal access to productive resources, they would increase their yields and feed more hungry people.

According to her, though women make up to half of the agricultural labour force, barriers to credit, inputs and extension services, as well as land ownership and rights, limit their production.

“It is certain that women are more likely to reinvest their income into their families to improve education, nutrition and health; when women flourish, families and communities do too.

Abdulwahab disclosed that the move was an ongoing exercise in five selected states across the country and the FCT, where the priority demands of 500, 000 smallholder women farmers would be submitted.

“The five states are Jigawa, Niger, Nassarawa, Anambra and Oyo.

“Currently, we have over 500,000 rural farmers working in different communities across the 36 states of the federation,’’ she said.

The Nigeria News Agency , reports that SWOFON is a coalition of women farmers associations and groups across Nigeria with the goal of advocating for and supporting women farmers, especially those in rural areas.

Edited by Hawa lawal/Nyisom Fiyigon Dore (NAN)

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Agriculture

Association canvasses more investments in coconut plantation

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Mrs Okoroginma Ogechukwu, the President, National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN), has called for more investments in coconut plantation in the country.

Ogechukwu made the call in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency in Lagos on Wednesday.

She said that the potential of the sector had remained untapped due to lack of adequate investments.

She said the available coconut plantation in the country could not produce the needed quantity for the increasing demand of the cash crop.

Ogechukwu said that the Federal, State and Local Governments, foreign investors as well as the Diaspora communities should invest more in coconut.

NACOPPMAN is an apex body, established to nurture and authorised by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, to coordinate the activities of the coconut industry in Nigeria and globally.

The association was inaugurated in September 2019 in Abuja.

She said that Nigeria was faced with the challenge of going back to its own coconut plantations with the recent closure of land borders by the Federal Government.

She said the country could not promote what it did not have, saying that government must pay attention to the coconut industry by establishing more plantations.

“Thank God for the closure of land borders because we have been exposed to the reality that 90 per cent of coconuts consumed in Nigeria is coming from other African countries.

“We import coconuts from Ghana, Togo, Seme borders and other African countries.

“Now, with the closure of borders, we are faced with the reality of going back to our plantations, ’’ Ogechukwu said.

She said governments at all levels and investors should take advantage of the opportunities presented by the closure to invest in coconut plantation and its value chain.

She said the closure of land borders had exposed the reality that 90 per cent of coconuts consumed in the country were imported.

“We have to consciously invest in coconut plantations in Nigeria and that’s the only way out. We cannot promote what we don’t have.

“How can we be promoting other countries when we have the arable land for the plantation. A crop that can grow in the 36 states of the country; it is advisable to invest in it,” Ogechukwu said.

She urged Federal, States and Local Governments as well as the diaspora communities to tap into the huge market by investing in the industry.

She described the coconut industry as a good retirement benefit for investors.

“I want to call on the government, investors and those in the diaspora to invest in coconut.

“With coconut investment, you can be making 80 per cent return on investment and the coconut continues producing until the next 60 years.

“It is the best retirement benefits and investments you can imagine and with that, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will grow and there will be employment opportunities for our youths.’’ Ogechukwu said.

Edited by Abdullahi Mohammed/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

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Agriculture

Insure crops, farmlands in case of erosion, fire – extension agent advises

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Farmers in Anambra have been advised to  insure their crops and farmlands to avoid losses in case of eventualities.

An Extension Agent in the state Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Rufus Imoka, gave the advice in an interview with Nigeria News Agency in Awka on Wednesday.

“For the fact that catastrophe is neither here nor there, besides the topography of the environment, farmers should insure their farms.

“Every crop should be insured for safety purposes in case  of eventualities  such as flood, erosion, wild fire.

“Insurance will go a long way in assisting victims of natural disasters in their farms,” he said.

Imoka urged farmers not to worry  about insurance premium, saying that  the benefits of insurance  outweighed the premium.

“At first, it will look as if there is nothing to gain, but it is not true.

“ and farmlands, food security will be guaranteed,” he said.

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Agriculture

Group set to train herders on greenhouse ranch management

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The Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS) says plans have reached advanced stage to train herders on greenhouse to manage its 10,000 capacity ranch currently under construction at Gaate, Nasarawa State.

Mr Tedheke Retson, the National Coordinator made this known in an interview with Nigeria News Agency on Wednesday in Abuja, said the herders, which were already working on the farm would be trained on how to grow grass to feed their cattle without using soil.

He said the essence was to reduce the amount of time required to grow grass to feed the animals as well as limiting the movement of the cattle to make them more fit for the purpose they were being bred.

According to him, the ranch which is expected to take off in December will be the first of its kind in the country, as the project will change the pattern of feeding of livestock in the country.

“We are going to train the Fulani who are in charge of livestock on the farm on how to use hydroponics (greenhouse). What that means is planting crops or grass without sand to feed the cattle.

“This is to reduce the number of times the animals will be going out to graze in open land.

“Of the 10,000 cattle that will be put in the ranch, 5,000 will be cross bred specifically for dairy purposes and the remaining 5,000 will be for fattening for onward sale in the Southern part of Nigeria.

“It will interest you to know that the south alone consumes in excess of 100,000 cattle a day, a market that is insatiable.”

The coordinator further pointed out that training would not be limited to herders, adding that the group was already discussing with the Nasarawa State Government as well as the Federal Government to train youths across the country.

He said one of the misconceptions that Nigeria “will not work no matter the effort” was unfounded, adding that the group had been able to disabuse the minds of Nigerians on such belief with the level of achievement so far.

“We have been able to sell that message to both the A.A Sule led administration in Nasarawa as well as the a Federal Government. The Vice President was here, we have met with the Minister of State for Agric as well as the Minister of Agric.

“The relationship we are trying to create is simple. Now we are beginning to fabricate some of the machineries we need to work in our rice mill, a mill that will be delivering two trailer loads of rice on a daily basis soon.

“The state government wants youths from the state to learn how to fabricate this, then we can have a conversation with the Federal Government and say let us turn every community into a rice producing community.

“Our plan is to build a research and training institute here on the farm so that as youths are brought in, we are teaching them the basic machineries that are needed to make agriculture simple for rural Nigeria.

“We are looking at a situation where we dedicate part of our revenue as a country to rural agro development.”

Retson emphasised on the need to make rural Nigeria attractive to reduce rural, urban migration, adding that the plan of the group was to move Nigerians from urban areas to rural areas.

He said the group was working to make rural Nigeria attractive to the point where unemployed youths seeking white collar jobs in urban areas would be willing to go to rural Nigeria to work and be productive for themselves and the society.

“Of course, the most productive industry in Nigeria today is politics and religion. Those are not sustainable. Betting industries are also springing up but they are not sustainable.

“The fact that our youths are spending about N100 billion every month on betting is not sustainable because that is an expectation that is almost lost.

“So, what we are trying to do is to see if we can create a pool effect where NFGCS will create a learning platform where all the arms of government will tap into for us to train Nigerians, to set up a project like the Gaate farm across all local governments in the country.

“If you create 500 jobs in a place like this and it is replicated in 774 local government areas in Nigeria, imagine what we will achieve within the next decade.

“We will not do training in a hotel in the urban centre. We will build hostels for the trainees on the farm to spend up to four months in the farm, train enough and have the capacity to be reproductive.

“For instance, what is in a colour sorting machine for rice that cannot be made in Nigeria?

“We are having a conversation right now with the Adekunle Ajasin University to go to the engineering department and tell them to produce the complete line for making rice,’’ he said.

Retson pointed out that one of the major focuses of the group was to establish a farm settlement with not only a complete value chain of farming, processing and marketing but one with every facility, including medical centre, school and a resort for vacation.

Edited by Ese E. Ekama (NAN)

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Agriculture

Tak Agro Plc to acquire 250 trucks for fertiliser production, distribution

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TAK Agro Plc, a major player in Nigeria’s agricultural value chain says it has concluded arrangement to purchase 250 MAN trailer-trucks for its fertiliser production and distribution, as well as grain processing and storage operations in readiness for dry season farming.

The Chairman of Tak Agro Plc., Thomas Etuh, said on Wednesday in Abuja that the decision was taken in Lagos, at the signing of N15 billion bonds facilitated for the company by Planet Capital as part of plans to acquire 1,000 trucks.

Etuh said that N15 billion was the first tranche of a N50 billion bond approved by Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) to finance the acquisition of key infrastructure to facilitate the movement of raw materials and evacuation of agricultural produce.

He also said it would help the company to meet the demands of boosting its production of fertilizers as well as provide the pillar that would enable it drive the government’s initiative towards boosting food production and food security.

He noted that acquiring the trucks became an important plank of the company’s strategy because of the intricate vehicular requirements of fertiliser and commodity businesses.

“Every six monhs, TAK Group moves raw materials and fertilisers to and from various blending plants.

“It requires about 34,000 truck trips to move one million tonnes for both raw materials and finished goods, and if you benchmark this against our installed capacity, we are basically talking of about 100,000 truck trips a year. You can now see why this is important to us.

“We are starting with 250 trucks for now but our requirement is more like 2,000 trucks to be able to meet our requirements.

“This means that even when we have the complete 1,000 trucks, we will still be supporting that with the third party trucking arrangement as we are currently doing,” he said in a statement by Mr Alex Emode, Media Consultant to Tak Agro.

Etuh explained that TAK Group is driving towards building a Pan African integrated agro solutions company with an installed capacity of three million metric tonnes out of the country’s need of about four million tonnes.

He expressed optimism that the additional investments in logistics would ensure optimal leverage of economy of scale with regard to the company’s installed capacity.

“TAK Group is one of the few end-to-end players in the agro value chain in Nigeria, starting from yield enhancement by providing NPK fertilizers to farmers all the way to storage of grains and the produce that comes out from the application of the fertilisers.

“TAK logistics is one of the key building blocks for the end-to-end value that the TAK Group delivers to the market, starting from the delivery of raw materials to the blending plants to the movement and distribution of blended fertilisers to the agro dealers.

“Nigerian farmers lose over 50 percent of their produce due to the lack of storage facilities and difficulty in moving the produce from farms to markets and storage centres, and that is why, part of the infrastructure that TAK group is putting in place is to deal with this issue.

“So, while we are enhancing yield per hectare with our fertiliser, we are also taking care of the waste that have been the lot in the industry over these years.

“This ensures our farmers earn a lot more at the end and the idea of seasonal availability of staples like grains will be a thing of the past,” he said.

The Managing Director, TAK Logistics, Mr Chuma Maduekwe, was also quoted as saying that the bond would help farmers be in control of the logistics chain.

He said farmers in Nigeria had hitherto, suffered serious losses owing to lack of storage facilities and poor handling of post-harvest activities.

“Nigerian farmers lose over 50 percent of their produce due to the lack of storage facilities and difficulty in moving the produce from farms to markets and storage centres.

“This is why part of the infrastructure that the TAK Group is putting in place is to deal with the issue of logistics.

“So, while we are enhancing yield per hectare with our fertiliser, we are also taking care of the waste that have been the lot in the industry over these years.

“This will ensure our farmers earn a lot more at the end and the idea of seasonal availability of staples like grains will be a thing of the past,” he said.

(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)

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