By Eric Ugbor
ABIA State Government has commenced the distribution of over 200,000 bags of fertilizer to farmers in the state, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Uzo Azubuike, has said.
The commissioner, who made the disclosure yesterday, while speaking with newsmen, said the fertilizers would be sold to every Abia farmer, who wants to buy and at the rate of N6,000 per bag.
He noted that unlike in 2016, there would be no allocation of fertilizers to farmers in 2017 but farmers would be free to get as much as they needed and on first come, first served basis.
He further explained that the ministry was working hard to encourage youths to go into farming through the introduction of various aspects of farming, such as mushroom farming.
“The mushroom production is our own creation. We have brought experts, who have established a mushroom farm on the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture in Umuahia.
“And what we have done there is to create another avenue so that our people would not think that agriculture is limited to growing of yam, cassava, plantain and all that.”
“We are creating new areas that would absorb our graduates. The mushroom farm is a very technical and highly sophisticated aspect of farming where you do not need to dig any hole.
“The farm grows under an air-conditioned environment. You can put on your white clothe and go to the farm without going under the sun. It uses an in-house technique. And you know today people are looking away from animal protein to things like this”, he said.
Azubuike said that the ministry had scheduled training for 340 farmers before the end of April on mushroom farming to boost its production to meet a very high demand for mushroom.
“So we are training 40 youths per local government. That is how we want to start so that many people will now go into that,” he said.
The commissioner said that Abia was committed to raising a new breed of farmers who would work with improved seedlings to boost the state’s Internally Generated Income to solve its problems.
He said that the state was raising improved cassava breeds at a pilot farm at Omuma Uzo, Ukwa West LGA to give farmers high-yielding breeds that are resistant to pests.
He also said that the state under its oil palm revolution aimed at driving Abia state’s economy in the next six years, planned to raise about 10 million palm seedlings between 2016 and 2018.
“We have a target of raising 10.5 million seedlings from 2016 to 2018 within our regime. We have started a nursery sitting at Ahiaba- Umueze in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of Abia state.
“For now people have over-subscribed the 2 million that we have raised. This year we are going to raise another 3 million and next year we are going to do 2.5 million and that will hit our target of 7.5 million seedlings.
“We hope that in the next 5 to 6 years, Abia state would not need to attend the Federation Allocation Committee meeting in Abuja before it can pay workers salaries or build its roads. We want to wholly depend on our agricultural products,” he asserted