The Federal Government has launched distribution of inputs to farmers nationwide, as part of measures to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, while delivering the keynote address at the launch in Kaduna State on Monday, said the move was necessary to support smallholder farmers in the country.
He disclosed that the inputs included, different categories of rice seeds, maize, wheat, sorghum, cowpea and oil palm seedlings and a host of others.
He said that at least, 35 per cent of the inputs were targeted at women farmers in line with targets set in the National Gender Plan and Policies aimed at ensuring increased opportunities for women.
Nanono noted that the guideline to ensure women farmers enjoyed the 35 per cent had been communicated to farmers associations accordingly.
The New Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the ministry distributed the inputs to different value chains.
Rice farmers through Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) were given 270 metric tonnes and 300 metric tonnes of certified foundation seeds of flood tolerant rice varieties of FARO 66 and FARO 67.
The association is expected to distribute the seeds to their members nationwide for 2020 cropping seasons.
Also, 14 selected seed companies with the capacity to produce foundation seeds received 20metric tonnes of breeder seeds of the same varieties in preparation for 2021 wet season.
It further distributed 26metric tonnes of certified wheat seeds to farmers; 1,350 maize production kits and 18,517 kilogramme of Aflasafe to ensure that the maize produced was aflatoxin-free.
In the same vein, 66,000 sprouted nuts of oil palm were distributed to farmers in Kogi, Nasarawa, and Kaduna States.
The seeds were given to farmers free of charge while other inputs were given at 75 per cent subsidised rate.
Nanono, while announcing distribution of the inputs, noted that it was the second in the series of distribution of the ministry’s palliatives to farmers nationwide.
He said the ministry with the collaboration of development partners led by International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) recently distributed sorghum, millet, cowpea and rice to 8,200 farmers from 13 states in Kano.
He disclosed that the third major roll-out of support to farmers would take place in Oyo State on June 11, where improved seeds and seedlings of yam, maize, kenaf, oil palm, cocoa, among others would be distributed to farmers nationwide.
Nanono assured farmers that with the distribution of inputs and other complementary interventions by different stakeholders, government would work to increase resilience of farmers and national food systems in general.
“Prior to Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration, many Nigerians were doubtful of the capacity of the country to feed itself.
“This notion fuelled the agitation for greater allocation of foreign exchange to finance food imports ranging from rice, diary, sugar, oil and host of others.
“With COVID-19, the priority of every country in the world is to ensure limited disruption to its food supply chains. A number of countries have banned or drastically reduced food exports.
“With dwindling oil revenues and limited opportunity to import food, one will only wonder what Nigeria would have been experiencing today.
“That is, in terms of food supply, if this administration had not taken the right policy steps and remained focused and steadfast.
“This gathering is one of our efforts to work hand-in-hand with state governments and other relevant stakeholders.
” This is to assist in ensuring food security, economic growth and job creation, especially in the face of COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The minister said the ministry and its research institutions were working toward 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 industrialisation.
He added that the ministry was supporting breeder and foundation seeds production and linking up with private seed companies to make certified seeds available to farmers.
He stressed that the ministry was also working to improve rural infrastructure and other value-chains to contribute to attainment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at ensuring easy access to quality food and nutrition.
Nanono urged the beneficiaries to make judicious use of the inputs to produce food for the nation while calling on other stakeholders to provide similar support to farmers to tackle the COVID-19 Pandemic.
NAN reports that high point of the occasion, which was attend by legislators and other critical stakeholders was the official launch of the inputs distribution by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
The governor while commending the Federal Government for its effort in ensuring food sufficiency in the face of the pandemic, pledged his government’s support for agricultural policies.