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Ban on foreign rice forces Ebonyi to scout for 54,000 hectares for dry season farming

Barely less than one week after the Ebonyi State Government had banned sales and consumption of foreign rice in the state; it has begun moves to secure about 54,000 hectares for the 2016/2017 dry season farming.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Uchenna Orji, disclosed this in Abakaliki on Monday when a team from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) supported Value Chain Development Programme visited him.

Five LGAs that are traditionally famous for rice production include Ikwo, Izzi, Afikpo South, Ishielu and Ohaozara.

Already, a farmer in Ishiellu LGA, Mrs. Mgbemma Osii noted that she has commenced farming activities with water provided from a well dug by a council leader.

The team is in the state for its 2016 fourth supervision mission. Orji said that the government had met with Local Government Area Caretaker Committees, farmers associations and technical partners for the commencement of the dry season farming.

Orji said: “We have commenced identification of lands to ascertain areas with dams, surface water and other water sources, to meet the anticipated irrigational needs during cultivation.

“We have also embarked on land development by using bulldozers and other mechanised equipment to prepare the land with the active participation of our technical partners.”

The commissioner disclosed that the government had acquired 40 threshers for processing of harvested rice paddy and had paid 40 per cent of the total cost of acquisition.

Orji said: “Our farmers are currently procuring the threshers at 40 per cent of the cost with the payment pattern staggered between three and four years for easy payment.

“We ensure that the farmers who are procuring the equipment are not political farmers, but genuine ones who would also serve as service providers.

“We will allot five threshers to IFAD and stipulate the payment pattern because the compliance rate to the equipment’s procurement is high.”

Orji said that the government captured the 2017 counterpart fund payment to IFAD in the 2017 budget, noting that the governor’s attention would be drawn to the payment of the 2016 fund.

The commissioner, however, urged IFAD to expedite action on its construction of irrigation facility at the Ezillo farms as well as train farmers drawn from the 13 LGA on modern farming practices.

The Leader of the IFAD team, Dr. Sam Eremie, said they were in the state to evaluate the performance of IFAD/VCDP programme and other related activities.

Eremie said he wanted to ascertain the government’s feeling about the programme and areas of strengthening the existing collaboration between both parties.

He commended the state government for including the next counterpart fund in the 2017 budget, but urged it to urgently offset the 2016 fund.

The IFAD team visited the five LGA where the programme is being implemented to assess its performance and interactive with farmers on their prospects and challenges in rice production.