ABAKALIKI – The Federal Government has given its backing to Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi’s ban on the sale of foreign rice in the state.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audi Ogbe, stated when he visited Ettem Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area as part of his assessment of agricultural potential of the state.
Ogbeh, who was in company with the Chairman, Presidential Committee on Rice production, Abubakar Bagudu and Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele, commended Umahi for his agricultural policy, particularly in ensuring massive rice production in the state.
The minister said,” Governor, I hear you banned the sale of foreign rice in your state, God bless you for it. I also hear you invited young men to come back from Lagos and work here, God bless you also for it. They will be happier here in this state than living under the bridge or substandard accommodation in Lagos, Abuja or elsewhere.”
Ogbeh, in a statement on Saturday by Umahi’s Chief Press Secretary, Emma Anya, called on youths to key into agriculture to diversify the economy and see it as a way out of the present economic recession in the country.
He promised to bring agricultural equipment like rice harvesters, threshers, par- boiling drums, etc.to Ebonyi State.
His words: “By the middle of last week, I had some machines ready for you (Ebonyi State). These include threshers and even new par-boiling drums which operate differently from what women are using. When those machines come, young men will be thought how to enter a farm and harvest rice for farmers. These young men and farmers will make so much money to the extent that they will become millionaires in the villages. So wealth is here(in farming)”.
The minister, who also announced Federal Government’s plan to plant 1,500 hectares of cashew nuts and set up two cashew roasting plants in Ebonyi State early next year, expressed satisfaction with what he saw at Ettem Amagu and Akueze Rice Farms.
He described Ebonyi farmers as the real heroes of President Muhammadu Buhari’s push to diversify the nation’s economy especially through agriculture.
“Governor, next year, we shall plant for you 1,500 hectares of cashew nuts. Five hundred hectares per the three senatorial districts in your state. We shall also build you two factories here for roasting cashew, ” Ogbeh assured.
He also promised that the Federal Government would rehabilitate the Ettem Amagu Ikwo Dam to encourage dry season rice cultivation in the state.
The minister explained that under Operation 1,037 of the Federal Government, a minimum of 10 dams per state and the FCT would be built.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, in his remark explained that the apex bank’s Anchor Borrowers Programme would commence next year to boost farming and tackle challenges confronting farmers.
Emefiele also pledged the bank’s readiness to participate in the clearing and reedredging of theEttem Amagu Dam.
The Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Rice production and governor of Kebbi State, Bagudu,said what he saw in rice producing states showed that the country had achieved self-sufficiency in rice production and should therefore commence plan for rice export.
“Success recorded in the last one year is phenomenal . What we have seen in terms of rice output seems to suggest that the goal of self-sufficiency which we hitherto thought will be achieved in 2017, might have already been achieved,” he stated.
Governor Umahi had while welcoming them in the state,commended President Buhari for reviving agriculture in the country.
He expressed the readiness of the state government to partner the Federal Government in all season farming.
He said, “There are over30 dams in this state. They are recharged by very near streams. So we want assistance from the Federal Government in the area of irrigation. We want assistance in the area of money to the farmers. we want assistance in the area of biomass plants. The cost of buying diesel and maintenance is too high, We also need harvesters to assist our farmers.”
The team also visited the state’s modern rice mills in Oso-Edda and Ikwo where they saw live processed rice rolling out of the machines.
They were also taken to the popular Abakaliki Rice Mill where they witnessed the processing of rice paddies with locally-facbricated machines.
Before departing for the Government House, the team saw mountains of rice husk in the Abakaliki rice mill which the Umahi administration plans to use to generate electricity.