Abia responds to recession with palm plantation
The Abia State government has kicked off its revenue base diversification plan with an agriculture initiative involving 10,000 hectares of oil palm plantation.
The plan is seen as a return to the vibrant days of the defunct Eastern Nigeria under the leadership of the late Dr Michael Okpara before the discovery of oil.
To this end, the state government, under the leadership of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is embarking on oil palm revolution, as the way to economic sustainability.
Other agricultural produce like ginger, pineapple plantation and cassava farming are not left out as the state Ministry of Agriculture under headship of Hon. Uzo Azubuike as commissioner is also piloting in high-yielding varieties.
The state government says its plans at developing oil palm value chain is to make the state the number one in palm oil production.
To achieve this, the state government has set a target of developing 7.5 million seedlings between 2016 and 2019, targeting 10,000 hectares of oil palm plantation across the state and this would be achieved in phases.
The governor during an inspection of the nursery at Ahiaba Umueze in Osisioma council area of the state said the future of the economy of the state depends on agriculture hence the renewed attention on farming especially oil palm production.
According to him, Abia state has comparative advantage over other states in oil palm, as the state stands in an advanced position to enhance her revenue earnings through massive oil palm production.
He called on Abia youths to engage in farming as his administration is willing to assist them, while calling on farmers to also intensify their efforts in their various farms to enable them have more and improved yields.
Speaking at the occasion, Hon Azubuike said the state is targeting 2 million seedlings in the first phrase of the oil palm seedlings, the second will produce 3 million, while the third will deal with 2.5 million seedlings.
At Ahiaba Umueze oil palm nursery, visited by newsmen, it was discovered that over 1.5 million nuts have already been planted and are being awaited for buying by prospective farmers.
Azubuike while fielding questions from newsmen at the location said the Ikpeazu led administration had through the project employed over a thousand people especially youths and women in the communities and created wealth for families.
He said the seedlings were got at N350 each and would replicate over 700 million naira in the next one year, thereby increasing the revenue generation of the state.
The ministry of agriculture boss revealed that the state is establishing a Community Based Oil Palm Project which intends to inject the seedlings into the communities, achieve this.
The seedlings, according to him, would be sold to farmers at subsidised rates, which would be tested with the selected pilot communities and the essence he said, is to ensure that every farm land has two to three stands of high yielding oil palm growing in it.
He said that this is also geared towards tactically phasing out the low yielding varieties by the state government, stressing that government is determined to phase out the old palm trees which has served the state for several years.
Azubike said that under the arrangement, each community would have an anchor that would buy off Fresh Fruit Bunches, for processing; thereby making it possible for every community to have a mini palm processing mill, while the state builds an oil palm refinery.
The Commissioner further revealed that following the zero tolerance to land waste of the state government policy, it has also embarked on ginger and pineapple production at Ohambele, Ukwa East Local Government.
Also, at Omuma Uzo, Ukwa West Local Government, the state government has began the multiplication of high yielding cassava varieties.
Azubuike, explained that the varieties which were gotten from the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, are TME 419 and Pro Vitamin A.
He said the interest of the state government is on the stem which would be distributed to farmers because of its disease resistant, high yielding and more nutritious qualities.
According to the Commissioner for Agriculture, the state is recruiting extension agents to be sent to communities to educate the people on modern ways of farming in a bid to sustain the project.
Some residents of the host communities who spoke to newsmen commended the state government for such a giant stride and pledged total support for the project.
Source: The Nation Online