Ebonyi to increase agric budget to 5 per cent

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Ebonyi State Government has assured us of its preparedness to increase its budgetary provision for agriculture from 2.3 percent to 5 percent in the 2024 appropriation bill.

Chief of Staff to the Governor, Professor Emmanuel Echiegu gave the assurance on Monday while addressing an advocacy group, Agric Budget Plus Cluster, at the Government House, Abakaliki.

The group had stormed the Government House Abakaliki after moving around the Abakaliki capital city on an advocacy road walk on the need to increase agric budgetary allocation to 5 percent to ensure food security.

Represented by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Chief Timothy Nwachi, he noted that the State Governor, Rt. Hon. Francis Nwifuru had set machinery in motion to ensure that every needed support to boost agriculture in the State was provided by the government.

He noted that the state government had ordered for the immediate release of fertilizer and other incentives to farmers across the 13 Local Government Areas of the State at no cost, to aid their farming activities, this season.

He said: “I really want to seize this opportunity to thank the organizers of this program and to thank USAID for the good works they are doing in Ebonyi State and Nigeria. Ebonyi by the latest statistics is among the six largest producers of rice in Nigeria.

“So, having achieved this, an increase in our Agric budget will help increase our capacity in not just rice production but in other agricultural products as long as farming is concerned.

“Again, God has really blessed Ebonyi State with a very good fertile ground and what we just need is the political will which is where government needs to come in. How can this political will be achieved? It’s by increasing the State’s Agric budgetary allocation including that of the Federal Government.

“But good enough, we have a Governor who knows what it takes to do farming. Let me inform you that our working Governor has already improved our method of farming here.

“The Governor has directed the Commissioner for Agriculture to move into the Ebonyi State fertilizer blending plant to ensure massive production of fertilizer for onward distribution to farmers in all the local government areas of the State. And the report reaching us is that some of the local governments have commenced distribution of the fertilizer to farmers.

“All of these are some of the efforts the Governor has started putting in place to ensure that we remain on the top list as far as Agricultural activities are concerned.

“So, adding the 2.7 percent as being canvassed by you is not too difficult to implement. Let me also note that this campaign came at the right time because in no distance time, the circular for budget preparation will be released and it’s at that point that this increment can be made. It’s not when the budget is already in the hands of the House of Assembly or when it’s already with the State executive council.

“So, what it means is that God touched you people at the right time and you people have been able to meet the right people, the government. So, your message has been well received. The document that was handed over to me, we will sit down and look at it critically to assist the government in making a decision.”

Earlier, the Cluster Lead in Ebonyi State, Mrs Nancy Oko-Onya, who doubles as the lead Director, of Neighborhood Initiative for Women Advancement (NIWA) said that the Agric budget plus cluster is a process that “we are taking to ask the three states that are benefiting from the project to increase the Agric budget of the different states but specifically in Ebonyi State, we are asking the Ebonyi State government to increase the Agric budget of Ebonyi State from 2.3 percent to 5percent. That means an additional 2.7 percent.”

“Why are we asking for this? To increase agric practice, Agric output, to reduce hunger, poverty and malnutrition in the State. And all we are doing is, engaging with different stakeholders to also lend their voices to this.

“We have met with Commodity groups, we have met with students, we have met women’s organizations and we have also met with government stakeholders, asking for the same thing,” she explained.