Mr Godwin Akandu, president, Rivers State Mega Rice Farmers Association, on Tuesday said lack of agricultural equipment has halted the take-off of the rice production plan in the state.
Akandu told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt that the association had successfully coordinated members into cooperative groups using local government bio-data records processing system.
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He said the sector needed agricultural equipment to start off rice cultivation.
“As farmers, we now understand our environment – when to plant, given the weather conditions and planting seasons for optimum output – but our major constraint is lack of agricultural equipment.
“Using our records, the various farmer groups have been able to acquire large arable land with forest and stumps in them.
“What we need now are equipment like bulldozers and tractors before we can start off operations on this virgin land.
“Considering that rice has a general gestation period of three months with various species ranging from upland, riverine and swamp rice.
“Farmers in each area of the state are acquainted with the specie that is most suitable for a particular soil type and climate,” he also said.
Stressing the importance of equipment in mechanised agriculture, Akandu said with adequate equipment, there would be more canals to channel water sources to farms to sustain crops during the dry season.
He also urged the federal government to re-define agricultural investment models to enable the youths to participate actively in the subsector.
“The country is currently advocating for young people to embrace agriculture; the important question is, how can they achieve this without adequately equipping the sector?” he asked.
Akandu, however, urged the federal government to consider ways of promoting agriculture across the rural areas.
“The federal government should consider the distribution of at least two tractors and two bulldozers across the 774 local government areas in the country to enable cooperative farmers to get them on lease to boost agriculture.
“Upon distribution of these highly cost-effective equipment, it is expected that the federal government should make deductions from statutory monthly allocations of the states as repayment on those equipment.
“Such deductions should spread over a stipulated period across states. The steps, if adopted, will make it mandatory for states to begin to re-define agricultural investment rather than paying mere lip service to agro-business. (NAN)