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DAILY TRUST

Monday, March 28, 2011

Business/Agric Group sensitizes farmers on agric budget tracking By Tina A. Hassan VOICES rity

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small scale farnlers' associations has organized a twoday workshop on 'Agricul ture Budget Monitoring and Tracking' in order to raise the level of awareness among farmers on the degree of budget impl eme ntation . The group is advocating the involvement of local farmers before the budget of th e secto r is formulated and approved to effectively moni· tor th e degree of effectiveness of the budget and its impa ct o n thei r lives and occupation. National President ofVFS, Mr. Dom Okoro, said budget implementation level in the agricult ure sec tor has been very poor and this is large ly due to non·involvement of other stakeholders in ensuring that the budget is prope rly followed and projects are undertaken according to plan. He said the workshop became necessary to bring about a n awakening among farmers that the government ought to be responsible to them and is supposed to be responsive for farmers and other stakeholders in the sector. "What we are doing here to help farmers become conversant with budgetary terminologies and how they can know if the government is living up to its responsibility to the people;' he said. Also speaking, Mr. Amaechi Chukwu or'the African Institute for Applied Economics observed that the budget of the ministry of agriculture has been poorly implemented especially when it comes to impacting on the real farmers who are feeding the entire country.

As Nigerian farmers export potatoes By Tina A. Hassan FARMERS i!l Nigeria are gradually breaking a new frontier in the area of potato exportation in addition to commodities such as cocoa, groundnuts, cotton and many other products the country exports to other nations of the world. Sweet potato also known as Ipoema Balalas, a root tuber that is sweet and starchy is gradually gaining pro!f1inence among Nigerian farmers especially its new improved varieties that include the orange fie· shed and the tropical !poema Specie (11S8164). These species among other sweet potato vines were genetically enhanced and multipUed by the National Root Crop Research institute (NRCRl), Umudike and distributed to potato farmers in Nigeria for cultivation, the farmers now say they have begun harvesting the dry season set of fresh sweet potato for export to a United Kingdom (UK) based firm known as F·pro. National President of the Potato

farmers Association of Nigeria (POFAN), Chief Dan Okafor said the improved variety of potato that POFAN is exporting to the UK has been proven to have less sugar, high vitamin content, high diseases and sun resistance as well as a good remedy for eye and heart diseases and is also good for hepatitis patients. He said the association is going to gather the potato from all the states using four collection cent· ers located in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nasarawa, Anambra and Ebonyi states. Taking journalists round the FCT collection centre to witness the harvest at Kpegiyi, Okafor explained that the species of sweet potato planted are those that grow well during the dry season and they have been modified for good water conservation and that matures it after three months. "Although we are /inanciallyconstrained, we have signed an understanding with the F-pro to begin exportation ofour first consignment of fresh sweet potato to the UK and

this can be converted in flour for baking, pastries and other product. At the end of the harvest, we go round and gather the sweet potato fTom the different collection centres and by August, the first consignment of600,000 tons offresh potato would leave Nigeria for the UK, he said. Under the heat of the sun, the farmers labour to bring out big round tubers of red and white varieties of sweet potato with big smiles on their faces as they gather them for a nearby truck to pack and move to the store. Dr. Kenneth Nwosu is the Director of the National Root Crop Research Institute Umudike, he explained that the newest variety of sweet potato is the orange fleshed and it has many advantages such as high resistance and high content of vitamin A which is good for the eyes, nursing mothers and for children. He said it is "high yielding and produces 4-5 tons per hectare in addition to being an early maturing variety that is good for dry season farming especially in the fadama

areas. According to hinl. "this spe· cie is good for exportation to other

countries because countries like Uganda who are the largest producers of potato in Africa. are already exporting this variety of sweet potato and Nigeria has an advantage to do the same since we are closely competing with them~ "As a tropical crop, we can export sweet potato to the polar regions where there is a big market for us. We can even aspire to be Uke China, the largest producer of sweet potato in the world:' he added_ Chief Gregory Nwagu, leader of Savannah Green Multipurpose Cooperative who are the cultivators of the potato farm under POFAN, explained that the group decided to join POFAN to enable it export the potato they produce and to also access improved sweet potato vines. He said it has been difficult for them to get government's support in growing their farms that is why they are joining POFAN to enable them export their potato.

Sanusi commissions rice mill in Kano From Auwalu Umar & lawan Oanjuma Adamu, Kano KANa'S ailing industrial sector received a major boost with the commissioning yesterday of a multimillion naira state-!>f-the-art rice mill by governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Sanusi noted that new rice processing plant, UMZA International Farms located along Zaria Road in Kano financed by Fidelity Bank Pic under the N200 billion Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), is an altestation of the private sector's commitment to the development of agriculture. The company, wh ich has the capacity of prodUcing 24,000 metric tonnes of rice per annum , i)as both local

and national Significance, as the investment could provide employment for over 23 I Nigerians. "Hopefully, in years to come, some of these Nigerians employed by UMZA International Farms Limited shall become employers oflabour too," he said. Earlier in his address, the managing director ofUMZA Farms, Malam Muktari Khale, maintained that the company is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities used in cleaning, drying and polishing rice in processing mills of international standard. He added that the mill has employed 76 staff working on permanent basis, while 152 others are paid daily, maintaining that about 16,000 tonnes were purchased in

the last six months from farmers. The biggest challenge facing the company, Malam Khale noted, is the issue of power supply, pointing out that N2 million is expended weekly on purchase of diesel to fuel its generators. Also speaking at the occasion. the managing director of Fidelity Bank, Reginald Ehajiah said the investment has the potential offorex savings that could run into billions of naira, and assured the new company of the bank's contino ues support not only in lhe area of fmance but also advice. In his remarks, the chairman and executive officer of UMZA Farms, AJhaji Muhammad Abubakar Maifata, observed that without the support of the CBN and Fidel· ity Bank, the project would not have succeeded.


DAILY TRUST, 28 MARCH, 2011