Mr Godwin Akandu, President Etche Farmers’ Cooperative Union, has called on the Federal Government’s Fertilizer Support Initiative to reduce the high cost of fertilisers that could lead to food shortage in Rivers.
He said that following the Federal Government’s assurance on developing the agriculture sector, the entire states of the country should be well integrated into proper support initiatives to assist in achieving the target on food sufficiency.
“I think the time is right for government at all levels to look inward and proffer solutions to fertiliser scarcity on our farms, though there are fertilisers in the factories, how many peasant farmers can truly afford them?
“This is becoming a threat to our overall output in the forthcoming harvest season because it’s not easy for a peasant farmer to afford a bag of fertiliser for as much as N14,000.
“For instance, in cassava farming, an estimated one hectare of cassava farm should consume about eight bags of fertiliser but with the current cost, local farmers may not be able to afford it,” he said.
The farmer also advocated for a replication of the past administration’s Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) which allowed the Federal Government to subsidise the cost of fertiliser by 50 per cent.
“The GES programme should be readopted by this present administration to boost the downstream agriculture.
“In the past when the Federal Government subsidised the cost of fertilisers, at least farmers were given two bags each at 50 per cent of the cost and this to a large extent improved crop yield,’’ he said.
Reacting to the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the farmer said that the scheme did not incorporate the local farmers.
“Those of us here in Rivers, we heard of the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Scheme, the scheme itself is not too cost effective.
“It is just for the rich who are practicing the mechanised system of agriculture, not for the local farmers.
“In the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, only farmers with 50 Hectares and above are entitled to access support in that scheme, so invariably it does not support the local farmers.
“How many local farmers’ cooperative groups can afford five hectares talk more of having as much as 50 hectares of farm land?
Akandu also urged the three tiers of government to invest in agricultural equipment like tractors to enable every farming local government area own at least two tractors to enhance farming in relevant local area councils.
“It is sad that here in Rivers, it is very difficult to see a functional tractor in the State Ministry of Agriculture, some positive steps and policies should be put in place to boost agriculture at the grassroots,” he added.
(Edited by Abiemwense Moru/Peter Ejiofor)