As part of efforts to revamp oil palm production and boost agricultural yields, the Delta State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has flagged off the distribution of improved oil palm seedlings and other farm inputs to farmers in the state.
Governor Okowa, while flagging off the exercise at Ejeme-Unor in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state said that the initiative was to boost oil palm production and bring Delta State to its prime position as a leader in the industry.
The Governor who was represented by the Head of Service (HOS), Mr. Reginald Bayoko stated that the scheme was part of his administration’s desire to give farmers in the state the needed assistance to boost their productivity.
Governor Okowa, who assured stakeholders of increase in budgetary allocations in subsequent years to stimulate growth and development of oil palm enterprises in the state, revealed that since the inception of his administration in 2015, 1,930 farmers had been assisted with inputs, such as seedlings, steel collars and fertilizers to plant 4,425 hectares of oil palms in the state.
He also disclosed that he had approved the raising of 150,000 oil palm seedlings for the 2022 planting season and expressed optimism that the move would further increase productivity of the product in the state to 1,000 hectares.
“My administration in 2020 approved the raising of 120,000 elite oil seedlings (NIFOR and Malaysia tenera) through the Small Holder Oil Palm Scheme to support over 350 farmers in the state to plant 800 hectares. The objective of the scheme is to support each beneficiary farmer to develop 5 hectares over time.”
“You will recall that oil palm played a leading role in the economic lives of our people prior to the advent of crude oil. The significance of palm oil, cocoa and groundnut was manifested in the prominent role they played as foreign exchange earners both in the colonial and at the early years of our country’s independence,” Governor Okowa said.
He disclosed that the Delta State area of the former Mid-Western State, later Bendel State, was noted for its leadership in the production of oil palm, but expressed regret that attention was shifted from agriculture which was the mainstay of the economy to crude oil in the mid 70’s by government and the people’s interested in agriculture waned.
While explaining the rationale behind the establishment of the Small Holder Oil Palm Scheme by the state government in 1992 to revamp oil palm production in the state, he disclosed that it was the state government’s response to low yields of palm trees, adding that the scheme was created to provide improved oil palm seedlings through the Tree Crops Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources to boost productivity of the crop in the state.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Bennett Agamah, in his welcome remarks, thanked the state governor for approving the raising of oil palm seedlings every year as part of his commitment in returning the state to her glorious position as one of the leading states in the country in oil palm cultivation production.
The Permanent Secretary also paid glowing tribute to the Governor for his unrelenting efforts in diversifying the economy of the state and creating wealth for Deltans, especially the rural dwellers.
Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, the Vice Chairman of the Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), Mr. Hubert Obiaigwe said that the month of June was the right time to do transplanting and expressed optimism that over 95% of the seedlings would survive.
Highpoint of the event was the symbolic planting of oil palm trees to kick off the 2021 planting season by the governor’s representative, member representing Aniocha South in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Austine Chikezie Chika and the immediate past Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state, Mr. Julius Egbedi.