More investments coming, as Obiano’s agricultural reform nets USD 745 million in 2014

By emeka ozumba

The agricultural reform of the Chief Willie Obiano administration is likely to take the State to the Top –Three position in the country, as the government has attracted about USD 745 million to the State through its proposed mechanized agriculture, one of the government’s Four Pillars of Development, even with anticipation of more investment to make the State self-sufficient and develop a large market for abundant harvest.

Throwing more light on the State government’s new drive towards becoming food basket in Nigeria, during the flag-off ceremony to mark the 2015 Farming Season at Otuocha on May 27, this year, governor Obiano outlined the sources of investment inflow to Anambra State to include “… the massive entry of Coched Farms Ltd, a subsidiary of Coscharis with an investment portfolio of $150m or N30bn and Joseph Agro Ltd with $200m or N40bn has firmly secured our spot as a prominent producer of Rice. At the same time, the huge investments of $220m or N44bn made by Ekcel Farms in Umueje have given us a solid foothold in Cassava and Tomato‎ paste production. There are also other huge investors like Delfarm which pumped in the sum of $75m or N15bn, Grains and Silos Ltd with $40m or N8bn, and of course Lynden Farms Ltd which wants to set up an ultra-modern poultry farm with the sum of $60m or N12bn respectively.”

Giving hope on new development in the sector, the governor said agriculture remains the corner stone of his administration and capable of achieving the vision to put the State among the Top-3 states in agricultural production in Nigeria, become the Number 1 in the production of Rice, Cassava and Fish in the first 4 years of his administration and make the State’s agricultural output contribute at least 40% of the GDP of Anambra State.

Governor Obiano gave indication of the prompt evaluation and commencement of implementation of the Report of the Special Committee on Agriculture, headed by Prof. Omaliko, saying it “tells with scientific certainty, where certain crops can grow best in Anambra State and offers us creative and empirical insight into what we must do to play to the fullness of our strength in Agriculture.”

After the successes of 2014, he sounded optimistic in exploring new avenues to stoke the fires of this Agro-Revolution this year, through the formation of Small Holder Farmer Intervention Initiative, stressing: “This revolutionary scheme enables the formation of Smallholder farmers groups and the rural women to partner with the state government in a structure that makes it easier for them to access new agricultural techniques, tools, seedlings, fertilizer and market opportunities that would help stabilize their activities and contribute more meaningfully to the revolution.”

This scheme, he noted informed the need to set up “Agricultural Training School in Mgbakwu where our young farmers are provided world class training in modern agricultural practices. We are enhancing this with the provision of funds through the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA) Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund. And extensive sensitization campaign has been going on for a while now through the auspices of the All farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) and the Catfish Association of Nigeria (CAFAN) among others.”

Governor Obiano observed that the only way to sustain the gains already made in agriculture is “to seek creative ways of multiplying the prospects of farming as a rewarding enterprise for farmers. As a consequence of this, we have created the Anambra State Farmers Enhancement Scheme to boost the chances of success for Smallholder Farmers in the State.

“The ultimate objective of the Farmers Enhancement Scheme is to enhance agricultural productivity in a more sustainable way‎ through strategic partnerships that will lead to improved yield, access to modern farming equipment, inclusion in integrated value chains with large scale investors, a more robust access to Markets, training and empowerment and enhanced risk mitigation among others.”

Noting that he looks forward to seeing the day when a hardworking farmer finds a market for his produce, he said the State government would work assiduously to develop a market that would absorb all the produce from our Farms in the State, sensing optimistically “that all these initiatives will catapult Anambra State beyond the minimum threshold and stand us in a good position to compete for the number one agricultural state in Nigeria, especially when all the investment partners are fully settled in the State to become the new food basket of Nigeria.

Earlier, Hon Commissioner for Agriculture Mr. Afam Mbanefo said that the 2015 Farming Season which has the theme -“Pushing the Frontiers of Agriculture in Anambra state,” provides opportunity for the governor to interact with farmers and stakeholders in agriculture. He also stated that the event is designed to highlight governor Obiano’s ‘double barreled approach to transforming agriculture into a viable business in the state.’ According to the Commissioner, the two-pronged approach include: “partnership with investors both domestic and foreign to establish large commercial farms and processing plants; and addressing the issue of small scale producers to increase productivity and access to market through provision of improved variety of seeds and seedlings, fertilizers, tractorable land and tractor hire services.”

In his remarks, Acting Chairman of All State Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Anambra State branch, Dr. A.k.Ebogha thanked governor Obiano for providing agricultural inputs (seeds, seedlings, fertilizers and tractors) free to farmers. He noted that since loans are critical to farmers that the Bank of Agriculture should disburse the N1.2bn agricultural loan to farmers through an organization with capacity and with less stringent conditions. AFAN’s Acting Chairman also requested the governor effect the recommendation in the State Agric Blue Print on land Preparation and Parcelation amongst others.

Also in a goodwill message, South-East Regional Director of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Uche Nwafor commended Anambra state for supporting the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) programme which the Federal government gives in collaboration with states, with regular payment of her 25% contribution. The Regionally Director equally commended the cordial relationship between the State Director and the Anambra State Ministry of Agriculture.