Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State has restated his administration’s commitment to turn around the economic fortunes of the state through harnessing its huge potentials in the agricultural sector.
The Governor made this known on Saturday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mark Longyen, at the 12th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference, with the theme: “Economic Diversification: Agriculture As Option For A Prosperous Nigeria.”
The statement said the government was leveraging on the benefits of public and private investment through private sector partnership to achieve the goal of diversifying its economy from reliance on oil revenue to agriculture to achieve food security.
It said government’s decision to engage in massive agricultural ventures through public and private sector partnership was deliberate to ensure that agriculture became the driver of a mixed sector economy for job creation.
The statement said: “To this end, the Plateau State Government, in partnership with the World Bank Support Scheme, established Fadama Micro Finance Bank in November, 2015, awaiting final CBN licensing.
“This is essentially to provide farmers with the necessary funding for farming, which is an innovative approach, the first of its kind in Nigeria and 2nd in Africa.
“Besides, Government has in the last one leveraged on the attendant benefits of foreign intervention funds to boost the state’s agricultural sector and, accordingly, paid the counterpart sums of over N105 million for World Bank intervention projects and has so far accessed over N400 million from the Bank, while awaiting to access additional $10 million to execute more projects, especially in our three Value Chain Crops, namely, Irish Potato, Tomatoes and Rice.”
It added that the state government was set to venture into large scale mechanised farming through public-private partnership, hence, its decision to re-acquire its farm, the BARC Farm, for N1.5 billion, which was earlier sold out to an individual by a former government.
The statement added: “Also, Government has already taken measures to increase the existing number of 400 tractors to 800 tractors, in addition to facilitating the purchase of tractors through a four-year supplier credit, with 40 per cent subsidy by the government (State – 30 per cent and Local government -10 per cent).
“These will go a long way in boosting the state’s overall food production, bolster the exportation of fresh farm produce via the soon-to-take-off Heipang Inland Container Dry Port and supply raw materials to the Jos International Breweries when it is revived.”
The statement further said it was in line with Governor Lalong’s visionary and exemplary leadership style and determination to maximally use agriculture to drive the state’s economy that Government recently signed an MoU with a private firm, Solbec Limited, to revive the abandoned 65-year-old state-owned Panyam Fish Farm under a PPP arrangement.
It said: “Established by colonialists and once reputed to be the largest fish farm in Nigeria and West Africa, covering a land mass of 309 hectares, has the capacity to produce about 4.9 tonnes of fish and over 10 million fingerlings annually.
“It is expected that when it soon becomes fully operational, the farm’s annual revenue generating potential for the state will hit about N1.7 billion, an amount that is more than the monthly salary of government workers.
“Plateau State, with over 1,000 abandoned mining ponds, many of which have been certified fit for fish production, 20 dams and reservoirs, 673 hectares of water surface area,12 natural lakes and unique, clement climatic conditions, has huge aquatic and fisheries potentials.”
According to the statement, Government also keyed into the Ranching Policy of the Federal Government and is now considering its implementation after due consultations in order to boost livestock farming, which has myriads of socio-economic benefits to the people.
It also said that the Lalong Administration was determined to boost agriculture through effective utilization of the services of the Agricultural Services and Training Centres and Marketing Company, which it has adequately funded to enable it to provide agricultural inputs, services and introduce modern farming techniques with a view to transforming rural subsistence agriculture into commercial enterprises.