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Why food security is one of our concerns in Ogun

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Odedina

Commissioner for Agriculture, Ogun State, Dr Samson Adeola Odedina, in this interview says the state has a roadmap for food security and for commercial agriculture using various schemes such as the Anchor Borrower, dry season farming, cassava projects, youth engagement in agriculture and small-scale farmers support schemes. Head, Agro-Economy, FEMI IBIROGBA, reports:

How much success has the rice project recorded under the Anchor Borrowers programme in Ogun State?
Ogun State leads the rank of rice-producing states in Southwestern Nigeria. Before we become self-sufficient in rice production and attain the expectations of our people in this regard, we would need to lend financial support to the growers as rice production is majorly controlled by the private sector.

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There is a need to empower smallholder farmers, who are proficient in rice production in Nigeria. This will enable smallholder farmers to improve their productivity.

The agricultural sector is faced with production challenges, and products are scarce due to the inability to hasten production processes. For this reason, more labour is required to emancipate the agricultural sector from low yields. Hence, smallholder farmers cannot be sidelined, as indigenous products are scarcely patronised. As the need for production rises, there is a need for more growers. Thus smallholder farmers will undergo training to help them stay enlightened with agricultural trends, so as to increase their productivity per hectare.

The industrial process is the new focus on agriculture and rice falls in-between. This has attracted both indigenous and foreign investors, who have invested in machinery that peels off tonnes of rice paddies in a day. To multiply the number of industries in rice production and to ensure its sustainability chances, manpower will be required — manpower experienced and skilful in the rice farming and supplying business.

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Ogun State has the largest number of industries and off-takers (rice mill investors, who do not have farms). Here, we have assembled smallholder and young farmers venturing into rice production for commercial gains, and have provided them with the necessary training, loans and technology to sustain the rice milling factories and ensure that rice is available for consumption.

Operational opportunities are also included. We are fortunate to have land, industries producing rice and young people who have shown keen interest in rice farming. In recent times, the incumbent governor of the state-linked 1,100 rice farmers to get the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) credits worth N300,000,000. Farmers have been growing rice with support from the government. This is in addition to smallholder farmers who are being supported with extension services, technologies and inputs.

A Federal Government programme, VCDP, has provided 8,000 farmers with N360,000,000 in credits, in addition to input, so as to grow rice.

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In the state, farmers can grow rice in 10 local government areas, including Obafemi Owode (the home of Ofada rice). We also partner with a government agency called National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM), Ilorin, where we are demonstrating the Japanese method of planting swampy rice.

Also, we would like to have processing decentralised by supporting small-scale farmers and encourage village-level and community-level processing of rice. Here, our rice mills are under profiling before they will be handed over to the private sector to ensure efficiency.

Made available to us are two rice mills by the Federal Government, situated at Egua (one tonne per hour) and Aaton in the Ijebu North East (10 tonnes per hour), to partner with the private sector.

Are the mills functional?
We are at the construction stage and will need to set up requirements such as erecting an industrial borehole and are in the process of connecting with the national grid for electricity. However, the rice mill at Egua has been test-run and production has begun. Rice farming is at the hands of farmers and the private sector.

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In this season of production, we inaugurated the 20-hectare demonstration farm, which would prove that yield increase is possible and we would also be partnering with the private sector to produce 900 hectares in Egua and 600 hectares in Igbo Ilerin. There are several rice initiatives supporting farmers in Ogun State, even with the existence of the CBN’s financial aiding programme.

Can you quantify rice paddies being produced in the state?
Our expectation, under normal circumstances, is 50,000 metric tonnes of rice paddies, and this includes rice planted during the dry season earlier in the year. And farmers are also preparing for dry season farming now, and that will be reported next year. And some of the farmers suffered drought. When we talk about a flood in the north, we should also talk about the drought here, which lasted for more than two months.

The Federal Government has given us irrigation facilities for 100 hectares of rice farmland for demonstration. The land has been cleared and land preparation is ongoing now. This will teach our farmers how to irrigate rice farms properly.

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Ogun State consumes over 600 cattle in a day, yet the abattoirs are in a dilapidated state and this constitutes a likely threat to public health. What are the plans to ensure that these abattoirs will be in good condition, given that a central abattoir could yield over N300 million to the government alone from cattle slaughtering?

The primary role of the ministry of agriculture is to ensure that the consumers are not exposed to contaminated meats, ensuring public health. The negligence by the stakeholders who should enforce monthly, weekly, bi-weekly sanitation on the slaughter- slabs are the reasons for the unhygienic state of the abattoirs. We have sent a warning notice, stating that the slaughterhouse will be sealed if precautionary measures are not taken to improve the abattoirs’ sanitation.

Also, the abattoir is faced with the overcrowded challenge and we, with the corroborative efforts of the stakeholders, have held meetings to enable us to plan a decongestion so that it will be easily managed.

This administration is focused on improving the agricultural sector by ensuring food security, industrialisation, job creation and food and nutrition. Also prevalent is the engagement with the private sector (PPP) and strategic partnership with agencies responsible for sponsoring agriculture. Conclusively, the PPP is the alternative and best option that would abate the challenges of the abattoir, with a proposal and approval, we would fast-track and hand over of management of the semi-automatic abattoirs to the private sector.

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This emphatically suggests that the government is ready to share the control of industries with the private sectors, so as to ensure that private individuals are involved in the development process.

Under the 1999 Constitution, the ownership of slaughter slabs and abattoirs is conferred on the local government. But the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Veterinary Service Department, takes care of the meat. So, the certification of the meat being safe for human consumption is the function of the Veterinary Service Department of the Ministry of Agriculture — this is the area that concerns us. Thus, the LGAs are responsible for the sanitation of the slaughter slabs.

This is why they collect a sanitation fee at all slaughter slabs, while we (the ministry) collect meat inspection fee to ascertain the certification of the animal as food for humans. We look at the pre-mortem and post-mortem states of the animal.

The Ogun State has made conscious efforts in relocating the meat sellers at Isheri-Kara to the semi-automated abattoir at Ogere, while one abattoir is still under construction in Lafenwa, which will be meant for those in the Abeokuta metropolis.

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