FG expands Distribution of Inputs to Cross River Farmers
In the on – going efforts to mitigate the impact of covid-19 in the agricultural sector across the country, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono  today 6/8/2020, flagged off the distribution of the Ministry’s palliative incentive to Nigerian farmers in  Calabar, Cross River State, the South South Geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The Minister said that the effort is to increase the resilience of farmers and the national food systems in general.
The Minister at the event which held at the Murtala Mohammed Highway, Ikot Effanga, Mkpa, Calabar, said that ‘’ with COVID-19, the priority of every country in the world is to ensure limited disruption to its food supply chains , noting that  a number of countries have banned or drastically reduced food exports to avoid scarcity of food’’.
Alhaji Nanono stressed that ‘’since smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable, it become imperative for the government to support them with the much-needed inputs especially seeds, which is the most important factor that influences farmers’ yield in order to enable them to recover quickly from the set back of the Pandemic’’.
Nanono stated that ‘’the distribution of agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers which include different categories of cocoa seedlings, improved oilpalm sprouted nuts and cashew seeds as part of the  Ministry’s interventions to reduce the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural production in Nigeria and avert food scarcity in 2021’’.
He pointed that the Ministry and its research institutions are working towards making Nigeria self-sufficient in good quality seed and its availability to farmers as a foundation for attaining food and nutrition security as well as industrialization.
Nanono further said that ‘’ the Ministry is supporting breeder and foundation seeds production and linking up with the private seed companies to make certified seeds available to farmers.  This coupled with our efforts to improve rural infrastructure and other value-chains supports would invariably contribute to the attainment of Mr. President’s desire to ensure easy access to quality food and nutrition by Nigerians’’.
He said that ‘’ the Ministry will support the oilpalm farmers, with 5,000 improved oilpalm sprouted nuts and 1,500kg improved cashew seed, the cocoa farmers will also be supported with 20,000 cocoa seedlings and agrochemicals. In addition, Rice farmers will be supported with 1,000 kg of rice seeds’’.
The Minister informed that ‘’ this is the fifth in the series of the distribution of the Ministry’s palliative incentive to farmers nationwide. The most recent being in Lokoja, Kogi State where the ministry collaborated with the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (HADM&SD) to flag-off the distribution of Soybean, sesame, cashew and potatoes as well as fertilizers’’.
He explained  that ‘’ at least 35% of the inputs are targeted at women farmers in line with the targets set in our National Gender Action Plan and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women.   This has been communicated to the Farmer Associations accordingly”.
The minister urged the beneficiaries to make judicious use of these inputs to produce food for the nation ,adding that the State Governments and other stakeholders should provide similar support to farmers ‘’so that together we can defeat COVID-19 Pandemic and become self-sufficient in food production’’.
He acknowledged the cooperation and support received from Development Partners like OCP Africa Limited and International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in the fight against the effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on our food security.
In his remark, the Executive Governor of Cross Rivers State, Prof. Ben Ayade informed that the State government has laid a foundation for Agricultural empowerment which would  lead to job creation and economic development. ” this policies will enrich our farmers especially women and Youth”.
While giving her goodwill message, the Director – General, National Centre for Woman Development, Barr.  Mary  Ekpere-Eta stated that the Centre would commence ICT training for 100 Women farmers, adding that the policy will ensure that the women acquire basic technology based for their farming business.
In separate goodwill  messages delivered at the event, speakers including the Cocoa Farmers Association, National Palm Produce  Association of Nigeria, Cashew Farmers Association, AFAN and the Dean, Faculty of Agriculture , Forestry and Wildfire Resources Management, University  of Calabar, Prof Ausaji Ayuk commended the leadership of the Ministry for its proactive steps to reach out to the Smallholder farmers in this critical times  of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In her vote of thanks, Director, Federal Department of Agriculture of the Ministry, Mrs. Karima Babangida, noted that the choice of Cross River State is not out of place as it has contributed significantly to the production of oil palm, cashew cocoa among others to the national economy, ‘is why we want to ensure that they get good quality seeds that will help Nigeria to be self-sufficient in staple food production’’.
Ezeaja Ikemefuna
For: Director, Information (FMARD)