The Ebonyi Government says it has obtained N8 billion loan from some financial institutions to improve agricultural production in the 2018 cropping season.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Ikechukwu Nwobo, said this on Friday at a news conference in Abakaliki.
He said that the loan, which had low interest rates, would be given to genuine farmers and youths who intend to engage in agriculture in the 2018 farming season.
Nwobo said that the government secured the loan so as to boost agricultural production in the state and encourage the farmers to engage in modern farming activities.
“The state government has secured N8 billion agric loan to be distributed to farmers in this 2018 planting season to boost their yield.
“This money will be given as loan to interested farmers and idle youths who are willing to invest in agriculture at low interest rates.
“Our farmers can make more money by engaging in modern agricultural production, including poultry, snail, fishery piggery and farming.
“The state government has revolutionised the agricultural sector to make it, not only lucrative but also attractive,’’ he said.
The commissioner reiterated the commitment of the state government to implementing the roadmap for the development of agricultural sector so as to ensure that the sector became a leading revenue earner for the state.
Besides, Nwobo said that the government had invested a lot of resources in rice, cassava and livestock production.
He said that the government had procured high-yielding cassava stems for distribution to farmers in order to boost cassava production in the state.
He said that the government had established cassava processing plants in the three senatorial zones of the state, adding that the plants would produce millions of tonnes of processed cassava products every year.
“The cassava processing plants will produce several cassava products, including starch and garri, while the farmer will be able to have real value for his or her labour,’’ he said.
Nwobo emphasised the commitment of the Gov. Dave Umahi-administration to restoring agriculture to its pride of place.
He said that the state government was targeting between 20,000 and 30,000 farmers who would engage in aggressive rice farming in 2018, adding that Ebonyi intended to remain the largest rice producing state in the country.
He added that over 60 000 hectares of land had been earmarked for rice and cassava cultivation in the state this year.
He said that Ebonyi had the capacity to cater for the rice and cassava needs of the country, with a potential for export.
Nwobo stressed that Nigeria could no longer afford to manage its economy with oil revenues, adding that there was, therefore, the need to develop and strengthen its agricultural sector to make it a veritable revenue earner.
“Time has come for us to make a radical shift from over-dependence on oil revenues by developing the agricultural sector as alternative source of revenue generation,’’ he said.
The commissioner pledged that the state government would partner with local and foreign investors who were willing to invest in the agricultural sector, adding that the government would provide an enabling environment for their enterprises.
“We have so many untapped fertile lands for agricultural purposes and we are willing to partner with genuine investors who are willing to invest in the state.
“We are also ready to open our land space to investors who will invest in livestock production and the dairy business,’’ he added.