Farmers commence wet season farming, seek govt’s support


 The season of planting maize, cassava, vegetables and legumes in all parts of the country is here again, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports .
Although there has been abnormal rainfall pattern since the beginning of the year, farmers in many parts of the country geared up to taking advantage of the little first rainfall to commence farming activities.
Hoping for more rainfall, farmers in Ikosi-Ikorodu area of Lagos State, South-west, North central, started planting maize and cassava after the January rainfall.
However, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMeT) 2016 Season Rainfall Prediction on March 10 indicated that the rainfall pattern poses some risk factors for farmers.
The theme of the 2016 prediction was entitled: 'The impact of Weather Variability and Climate Change on Transportation, Infrastructure and Agriculture.'
The Director General of NiMet, Dr Anthony Anuforom, said the prediction indicated there would be, 'late on-set, early cessation and lower-than-normal rainfall in many parts of the country.'
``Dry spells during the rainy season may be more frequent and severe in many parts of the North, while the ‘little dry season’ or August break in parts of the south will be pronounced.
``These are risk factors for farmers in the affected areas and have to be carefully and scientifically managed, `` he said.
Mr Femi Oke, Chairman, Lagos All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said that with NIMET`s prediction in mind, farmers had gone ahead to take advantage of the little rainfalls to start planting.
``Farmers believe that their actions will boost farming activities that will transcend to increase productivity.
``Farmers in all parts of Lagos are optimistic about the 2016 wet farming season and are already planting, `` he said.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs Oluwatoyin Suarau, said the state would acquire 900 hectares of farmland to increase food production.
``The state is partnering with private bodies and other states on food security and agribusiness development.
``Lands will be provided for farming and farmers will be assisted with farm inputs.
``The state has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kebbi State Government on paddy rice production to be milled at the Imota Rice Milling Plant, `` the commissioner said.
Also, she said the state government has established an Employment Trust Fund to allow entrepreneurs and agribusiness owner’s access soft loans at three per cent interest rate.
``The Trust Fund will provide opportunity for agric business owners to access soft loans from government.
``A committee has been set up and it has N6.5 billion to disburse to farmers at three per cent interest rate, `` Suarau said.
She said that through the Lagos State Agricultural Input Supply Authority (LAISA) over 4,000 bags of fish feeds and over 1,500 bags of fertiliser were distributed to fish farmers and farmers respectively.
Suara said the authority also distributed 80 units of poultry battery cages to poultry farmers and other inputs like knapsack sprayers, water pumps and feed ingredients were supplied to farmers.
Fortunately after a long time, farmers in Lagos started having access to the Federal Government's several credit schemes to farmers through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
One of the Schemes is the Commercial Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme (CACS), which is a single digit interest rate scheme to finance agriculture value chains, input supplies, cultivation and marketing.
Mr Shola Adepomola, the National Coordinator of Farmers Empowerment and Development Association of Nigeria (FEDAN), said that its members had begun to access the credit facilities from the CBN.
``Some of our members' farms have been inspected and some have been able to access the fund, while some are still under processing.
``In my farming community in Ikorodu, many of us have started expanding our maize farms from five hectares to 10 hectares; even our cassava farms, we have increased capacity, `` Adepomola said.
He advised farmers not to miss this opportunity because it would enhance their agricultural activities.
``We are happy with the intervention fund by the CBN and that it is being disbursed to farmers after a long time.
``All farmers need do is to forward a credible business proposal through any commercial bank.
``The fund repayment plan is at a single digit interest rate which is very good because farmers cannot deal with double digit interest rate, `` Oke said.
However, Mr Adeola Elliott, the Chairman, Agric and Allied Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), believed that to address farmers` access to credit facility there was need for farmers to go through their cooperative societies.
According to him, farmers associations are credible groups and deserve to be given such rights.
``Rice, Cassava, Fish, Yam, and Poultry farmers among others have Cooperative Societies.
'``With fund coming at single digit interest rate, the Cooperative Societies are the right channel to get it down to farmers, `` he said.
In Plateau, Mrs Sarah Chuwang, the chairperson of the state All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) said farmers in the state were yet to access fertiliser at government approved price.
According to Chuwang, the farmers have resolved to buy the commodity at exorbitant price of N7, 000 and above in the open market.
She said farmers in the state were yet to feel the impact of the government in terms of subsidising agricultural inputs in order to boost productivity.
Chuwang, however, said that some farmers had been able to access some inputs such as seeds and fertiliser through specific agricultural programmes such as Fadama lll.
The chairperson called on government to match it words with action by adequately funding the agricultural sector in order to boost food production and create employment for Nigerians.
Reports from Kogi, indicated farming activities in the 2016 cropping season had commenced.
But Mr Ademu Halidu, the State Leader of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in the state told NAN that rainfall in the state so far, had not been encouraging.
According to him, it is on record that rain has only fell for just five times since the year began, noting that this could be the effects of the climatic change.
Halidu said that most of the crops planted had started dying due to the scorching sun and insufficient rainfall.
On what the state government is doing to assist farmers to access farm inputs and credit facilities, Halidu said the new governor had not unfold his plans for farmers.
He said that one of the major challenges confronting the farmers in the state was the inability to access fund and farm inputs at the right time.
However, Mr Tunde Ikuenayo, the state Coordinator of Youth for Agriculture (YFA), said the rainfall experienced so far in Kogi could be used to start the cultivation of maize and wheat.
Ikuenayo said farmers in the state began planting in March at the commencement of the rains.
He said that many people in the state were willing to go into farming but lacked the finance to do so.
Ikuenayo urged government at all levels to hasten the disbursement of agricultural funds to farmers, saying ``the right time to plant for maximum food production is now.’’
On challenges facing farmers, Ikuenayo said apart from the challenge of access to funds, the farmers also lack storage facilities and good access roads to transport their farm produce to the markets.
The state coordinator noted that the quantity of fertiliser distributed to farmers under the e-wallet was very low compared to the quantity that was actually needed in the state. 

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