By Grace Eshedagho
In line with Delta State efforts to improve the status of farmers through empowerment and provision of farm inputs, the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, through the Tree Crop Unit, has embarked on training of 700 farmers on best practice in oil palm production.
Speaking during the flag off ceremony, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Julius Egbedi, disclosed that the state government was committed to empowering farmers to ensure that the state took lead in oil palm production.
Hon. Egbedi said that all farmers that attended the workshop were the ones they had empowered in the past, adding that the training was to educate oil palm farmers on the best ways to maintain and control their farms for greater yield.
The commissioner noted that the workshop took place in the farm, to show the farmers practical ways of managing their farms, and enable them retain the memories of what they learnt, stressing that it was expected that at the end of the day, farmers would go home with new experiences.
He said that oil palm production could improve the economy of the federal, state and the Individual farmer, saying that a palm tree does not have any waste, while it was one of the tree crops that had financial value and could stand the taste of time.
According to Hon. Egbedi, “Nigeria used to be the highest producer of oil palm but today we are importing the bye products, and the nation has the climatic condition that oil palm requires to flourish.”
He stressed that Delta State Government was putting every resource and attention to be the lead in oil palm production, adding: “The CBN is motivating states by granting funds to enhance its production.”
While fielding questions from newsmen, the General Manager, Tree Crop Unit, Mr Ernest Otunko, disclosed that the unit had assisted 1,930 farmers across the state, adding that they looked at the list of farmers that were empowered with seedlings, collar guard and fertilizer in the previous years to be qualified for the training.
He said that they helped farmers to owe plantation considering its high capital intensiveness, adding that the state government decided to assist the farmers to own plantation by giving them all the necessary inputs and loan package which they would pay back after five years at harvest.
Mr Otunko said that the unit was enumerating their farms to curtail farmers who did not make use of inputs allocated to their farms, saying that some of them were observed to be selling their inputs, stressing that those who did not plant were made to pay back the loans.
He said that the ministry had engaged the farmers and that by next years the oil palm production would increase in the state, explaining: “In 2016 we gave about 250 hectares to plant seedlings, in 2017 we gave about 700 hectares for planting, in 2018 we gave farmers 2300 hectares to farm and when they begin to harvest the output would be encouraging.”
Meanwhile, the Facilitator, Mr Laju Eda said that they were in partnership with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to train farmers on the basic steps to get better yields, adding that they taught them what a palm circle was and its important in palm production.
He disclosed that they enlighten farmers to know the best management practices on how to have increase in productivity, adding that when farmers followed up with what they had learnt, they would get better yields at the end of time.
By Grace Eshedagho