Chief Austin Chikezie, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said this at the Ministerial Press Briefing, organised by the Ministry of Information in Asaba.
He said that in efforts to aid oil palm farmers, the government spent N115 million in 2016 to raise 220,000 improved oil palm seedlings in the 500-hectare Ejeme-Uno nursery for distribution to farmers.
“In 2017, N198 million was approved for expansion of the project at two nursery sites in Oleh and Arhagba Okpe in Isoko South and Okpe Local Government Areas respectively to raise 100,000 oil palm seedlings each, while 550,000 seedlings are raised in Ejeme-Uno.
“This will assist 400 existing and new farmers to increase their oil palm cultivation by 800 hectares in this year; the project is expected to create 400 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs in the state.
“This year, the sum of N195 million has been approved to further consolidate the oil palm production scheme for smallholder farmers and the funds will be used to nurture 400,000 improved seedlings at the three exiting nurseries in the state.
“This will also assist 350 farmers to cultivate 700 hectares of oil palm farms and this intervention is expected to create 2,080 cumulative jobs, when it is completed,’’ he said.
Besides, Chikezie said that the state government had spent N301 million on rice production from 2016 till date.
He said that N51 million was specifically spent in 2016 to promote all-season rice farming in the state, train and support 60 rice farmers in kind and cash.
“In same period, three rice processing mills were acquired for rice farmers at Obior in Anioch North, Ikweghwu-Agbarho in Ugheli North and Onicha-Ukwani in Ndokwa West local councils and the project is expected to create 60 direct jobs.
“In 2017, government approved N50 million for the cultivation of 242 hectares of rice farms, with 198 rice farmers benefitting, while targeting the production of 1,500 metric tonnes of rice.
“In 2018, the sum of N200 million has been budgeted for rice production, with a focus on 219 farmers to cultivate 300 hectares of rice farm,’’ he said.
On cassava, the commissioner said that 119 cassava farmers benefited from a training scheme, under the Cassava Cutting Multiplication and Distribution Programme, on the use of improved TME 419, NR 8202 and NR 8082 cassava cuttings in 2017.
“These cuttings are disease-resistant varieties and the yield per hectare is about 35 tonnes; so far, 176 farmers have been empowered with 10,237 cuttings across the state to cultivate 186.95 hectares of cassava farms,’’ he said.
Chikezie also said that government was committed to ensuring the success of the Anchor Borrowers Scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which was a model financial scheme for smallholder rice, cassava and fish farmers.
He said that government supported farmers, who were particularly involved in aquaculture (Fisheries), to pay their five-per-cent equity contribution under the scheme so as enable them to secure the loan.
He said although the focus of the ministry was not primarily on revenue generation, it generated N27.9 million as revenue in 2017, as against the N20 million it generated in 2016.
“This increase in revenue generation is due to the re-organisation of the mechanisms put in place for revenue generation
“Following the dwindling of oil revenues worldwide, the Delta Government took to agriculture as one of the ways of turning around its economy.
“With the priority given to agriculture by the current administration and the application of appropriate technologies, we are poised to transform our economy by creating jobs and achieving prosperity in the state,’’ he said.