Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross River has appealed to the Federal Government to assist in land development for rice cultivation in the state.
Ayade made the appeal on Friday at the South-South Rice Value Chains Stakeholders Forum in Calabar.
The governor was represented by Mr Emmanuel Ano, his Special Adviser on Agriculture and Value Chains Development.
He said the greatest succour that the federal government could give to farmers in the state was to help them in land development.
He maintained that land clearing remained a fundamental challenge to increased rice production in the whole of the South-South region.
“If the federal government concentrates its effort in assisting farmers in clearing and developing land in terms of ploughing and harrowing, rice cultivation will be enhanced in the South-South,” he said.
Ayade said the state had acquired 15 bulldozers, 30 tractors of 120 horsepower and was planning to acquire 100 more to be given to small holder farmers and cooperatives.
“We need the federal government to strengthen our efforts by making materials available to the farmers, particularly viable seedlings and irrigation facilities,” he said.
The governor further appealed to the federal government to repair the existing dams in Cross River to enable the people to contribute to the national food security plan.
Earlier, Mrs Karima Babangida, Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, said government was committed to supporting the agricultural sector in order to realise its objective of achieving food and nutrition security.
Babangida said government had identified rice value chain as strategic in achieving the objectives hence the need for synergy with stakeholders to develop the sector and guide government’s policy direction.
She said the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had taken steps to boost rice production in post COVID-19 Nigeria.
The director said that the ministry had distributed 36 metric tonnes of seeds of flood tolerant varieties FARO 66 and 67 to rice farmers nationwide, through its Rice Value Chain Desk.
She added that the ministry had also provided agro chemicals, organic fertilisers, planting and harvesting equipment and rice milling machines to farmers.
Accordingto her, the ministry has facilitated the establishment of 25 integrated rice mills by private investors nationwide to enhance production.
In a lecture, Dr Chijioke Osuji, an international rice value chain expert, said for rice cultivation to be successful in Nigeria, there was need to cover gaps in availability of improved seedlings, land development, off-take, mechanisation and others.
Osuji said mechanising rice production and processing was necessary to free up labour that would go into other value chains.
He added that the measure would reduce unemployment because the various value chains would be looking for people to employ.