By Osaze Obaze
Edo Government on Tuesday said it has concluded plans to distribute more than 25, 000 oil palm seedlings to smallholders oil palm farmers in the state.
Gov. Godwin Obaseki announced this during the inauguration of the 2021 oil palm planting season organized by the National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN) in Benin.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that NPPAN also distributed 50 oil palm seedlings to its members from the 18 local government areas of Edo during the event
Represented by the Acting Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Peter Aikhuomobhogbe, Obaseki said oil palm is one of the focal commodities in the state.
Obaseki noted that the focus of the state government in agriculture is to use it as a means for food security and wealth creation as well as to improve rural livelihoods.
” You are aware that we have what we call Edo State Oil Palm Programme (ESOPP) and we have identified more than 110,000 hectares of land for the cultivation of oil palm.
“As we speak, we have given out 45,000 hectares of the land to six investors in the state.
“They are currently carrying out community sensitization to enable them to take ownership of the land and develop the oil palm estate.
“The plan is to expand it to 200,000 hectares in the next three years.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is supporting the initiative with the sum of N69 billion.
“Smallholders farmers are going to benefit from this programme, so I encourage you to liaise with ESOPP for land to grow oil palm,” he said.
Obaseki, however, disclosed that the state had also concluded plans to engage 288 agricultural extension agents to train farmers on agricultural best practices.
He urged the farmers to patronize NIFOR for high variety oil palm seedlings.
Also speaking, the Speaker of Edo House of Assembly, Assemblyman Marcus Onobun, promised the farmers laws that would create the enabling environment for increased production of oil palm in the state.
Represented by the member representing Akoko-Edo 1, in Edo House of Assembly Yekini Idaiye, Onobun said there was an urgent need to diversify the state economy through agriculture.
“As legislators, what we can do is to partner with the farmers to amend old laws to encourage farmers and bring efficiency into farming.
“I want to appeal to the permanent secretary to facilitate an executive bill for the oil palm sector to encourage farmers,” he said.
Earlier, the National President of NPPAN, Mr Alphonsus Inyang, said that the association planned to develop 10 million seedlings in 2022 for distribution to its members.
Represented by the South-South Vice President, Mr Harrison Okpamen, Iyang solicited the support of the state government to achieve the laudable vision.
He called on the CBN to set aside N200 billion for the development of the oil palm sector in the existing oil Palm Development Initiative (OPDI).
He also called on the CBN to direct the commercial banks to accept oil palm plantations as collateral for loans.
The state Chairman of the Association, Mr Efosa Atoe, who welcomed the t to the event, said the association had more than 10,000 active members.
Atoe appealed to the state governor to protect oil palm farms, adding that the farms are being destroyed by land developers. (NAN)