Deltans may eat SMART rice in December, says Agric Commissioner

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Deltans may eat rice produced in the state if on-going plan by the State’s Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources is anything to go by.
Commissioner in the Ministry, Mr. Austin Chikezie dropped this hint during a chat with journalists of the Indigenous Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in his office in Asaba this morning.
Making known to the newsmen the strategy of the Ministry of Agriculture in focusing attention on three major agricultural programmes of oil palm production, rice production and aqua culture, which is fish farming in the state, Chikezie described the programmes as largely successful.
In restructuring the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, we decided that we don’t need to go into all agriculture programmes. We looked at oil palm and concluded that oil palm is a produce that does very well in Delta State. And since we have a comparative advantage in the produce the Governor approved our proposal for 2,000 palm seedlings. And now we are flagging off the oil palm seedling programme.
“Oil is gold, but people abandoned it because they say it has a long gestation period, and so they go for areas that will fetch quick money,” the commissioner said.
Pointing out that many farmers have collected forms for the oil palm programme, he said the state government is giving inputs and not money. “You must be be interested in farming, and you must apply for the farmland. We are not giving cash. We give farm inputs for all farm lands. The aim is to ensure that it is only those interested in agriculture get involved,” he said.
The other is the Delta state rice development programme. Chikezie said: “We sought approval to embark on massive rice production, and we have about 2,000 hectares of rice farmlands around the Illah-Ebu axis of the state, and in other locations.
“By December this year, there is a compelling need for us to supply SMART rice. Delta State is at the forefront of rice production.”
To be a rice producer, Chikezie said the person has to apply to the Ministry of agriculture for land, after which the beneficiary will receive farm inputs that includes seedlings, fertilizer among others. “And for every hectare rice farmland, the farmer is entitled to N10,000 support fund from the state government that is domiciled with Access bank, the commissioner disclosed.
He added: “As we talk, we have exceeded our initial target of getting 300 rice farmers. We now have engaged 500 rice farmers. We have three rice mills to anchor for those producing rice. The mills are in Agbarho, Ugiliama, and one other. Those producing rice in the state already have markets for them.”
On the third area of concentration which the commissioner described as aqua culture programme of fish production, he said those participating have gestation period of one year, even as they are given inputs that includes fingerlings, fish feeds. “For the aqua culture, participants don’t pay for all the inputs. The ponds are not paid for. We also have fish drying kilns located in selected places so that people can sell their products,” the commissioner disclosed. This is in addition to putting in place facilities to train youths who are interested in going into fish farming.
“We have also built a training centre for the rearing of grass cutter meat. We have structures for the training at the ADP in Ibusa built on my assuming office under the Okowa administration,” Chikezie revealed.

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