Mr Afam Mbanefo, the Commissioner for Agriculture in Anambra, on Wednesday said N5.4 billion had been allocated to agriculture in the state’s 2017 proposed budget to boost rice and cassava production.
The commissioner disclosed this while receiving a 10-member delegation of the International Fund for Agricultural Development/Federal Government of Nigeria (IFAD-FGN) Supervision Mission to Anambra.
Mbanefo said the allocation was 500 per cent higher than the 2016 figure, adding that it aimed at increasing assets and capacity development of farmers in the state.
He said the proposed budget would ensure that Anambra becomes one of the top three producers of rice, maize and cassava in the country.
“We plan to develop over 100 hectares for seed multiplication in next year’s farming season.
“Between January and February 2017, farmers will be overwhelmed by off-takers and millers who have indicated interest to do business in the state,” Mbanefo said.
According to him, the state surpassed the estimated production of 210, 000 metric tonnes of rice for 2016 due to the intervention of the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP) for farmers.
Earlier, Dr Ben Odoemenam, the Team Leader and IFAD Country Programme Officer Nigeria, said the delegation was in the state to monitor the impact of VCDP on farmers.
Odoemenam lauded the state government for assisting farmers with inputs and for paying its cash counterpart fund of over N94 million for the programme in the 2016 farming season.
“The good thing about the programme in Anambra is that it has increased productivity, improved minimum economic scale and encouraged farmers to take farming as business.
“It has caused a new generation of youths to embrace farming in Nigeria.
“It was interesting to learn that rice farmers in the state are already making a net gain of N700, 000 per hectare.
“This is the second year of the intervention and there are four more years to go, but already, we have created an import substitution of about four per cent from the state alone.
“In Benue and Taraba states, we have caused import substitution by about 10 per cent that means that if we can increase it by 50 per cent, Nigeria can come out of recession,” the team leader said.
He stressed the need for mechanised farming as well as increased level of commitment by off-takers to ensure sustainability of rice production in the state.
In his remarks, the State Programme Coordinator of VCDP, Mr Nnamdi Agwuncha, said technical training on best agronomic practices was provided for rice and cassava farmers.
According to Agwuncha, 220 farmer organisations with 3,001 farmers had been networked and supported with inputs like NPK, urea and herbicides valued at over N88 million.
“VCDP has entered into partnership with the private sectors, agencies and institutions in order to strengthen beneficiaries’ capacities in production and post-harvest handling of their products.
“Farmers are making improvements. The processed rice in the state can compete favourably with any imported rice,” he said.
The team visited cassava farms at Igbariam and Achalla communities, and rice farms at Ifite-Ogwari and Ufuma communities.
They visited ongoing access road projects to farmlands at Opetepe farm cluster and Owusi farm cluster in Omor community, as well as Iyiagwu road in Ifite-Ogwari community.
The team also visited two off-takers, Josan Agro Ltd. at Ufuma community and the Udoka Rice Mill Industries at Omor community to ascertain their level of production and challenges.