Rice farmers in Benue State are hoping for a bumper harvest in no distance time following their ability to effectively tackle the resurgence of army worm infestation on their farms.
Most of the farmers lost their yield last year to the ravaging crop pests.
But, with the application of appropriate pesticides and engagement of best agronomy practices, the rice farmers may have a success story to tell for this year’s harvest which is fast approaching.
Mr. Vitalis Tarnongu, a rice farmer, said his harvest would be amazing because he ensured that the seed, which he got from a company in South Africa, was one of the best, coupled with the best agronomy practices he followed.
He expects to reap 150 bags of rice from at least one hectare each of his large farms spread across different areas of the Federal University of Agriculture in Makurdi, Benue State, by the end of October.
“Apart from eliminating any trace of infestation, if our rice farmers can practice transplant of rice as I did, they will have more yield than from the old fashioned way of planting their rice,” Tarnongu said.
For now, he is optimistic that the major challenge of rice farmers in the state is how to control weeds in their fields as most of them still lack the knowledge to do so. He also advised the state government to pay more attention to the agricultural sector for revenue generation in the face of dwindling oil economy.
Tarnongu, who is also chairman, board of Directors of Teryima Nigeria Limited, explained that his company, which started as a farmers group in 2007 with few farmers who were into rice and maize production, now has a membership of over 300 farmers and is expanding its scope to cassava farming and carrying out agriculture business nationwide.
“We strongly believe in agriculture and hereby advise the present and future administrations to pay more attention to it for revenue generation, self-reliance and economic growth of our state. We encourage others to embrace agriculture so that we can retain our status as the food basket of the nation,” he added.
Another rice farmer at Ikpayongo in Gwer Local Government Area, Dennis Alfred, said he expected a bumper harvest from his five hectares of rice farm following the favourable weather condition this year.
He opined that despite the flood that threatened his rice field at the initial stage, the plants have grown well, promising a robust harvest and beautiful income in a month’s time.
Similarly, Anthony Anebi, whose rice farm covers about 100 hectares of land in Adoka District of Otukpo Local Government Area of the state, emphasised the need for support from government at all levels, noting that farmers in the state were set to meet the country’s consumption need.
Anebi records at least 6.5 tons per hectare when rainfall is minimal and 7 tons per hectare with adequate rainfall, making him churn out over 70 bags of paddy at 100kg yearly even as he hoped to have more yield this year.
Meanwhile, the State Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Comrade Aondona Hembe Kuhe, is concerned that most of the rice farms were affected by flood as such the general harvest would not be high as expected.
Kuhe, however, noted that some rice farmers whose fields were not affected by the flood are expecting good yield, especially as the challenge of invading army worms which interrupted bumper harvest last season had been solved.
According to him, the rice and soybean anchor borrower programme for this year targeted 20,000 farmers in the state, adding that more awareness was needed to increase the number of 4,000 beneficiaries which participated last year against the initial 15,000 farmers targeted during that season.
The AFAN chairman expressed worry that the rice farmers engaged in the programme complained that their financial claims were yet to be cleared.
He further appealed to unregistered farmers with AFAN in the state to acquaint themselves with the other 2,000 different cooperative members of the association in order to access loan facilities from the designated banks.
On his part, Governor Samuel Ortom has consistently stressed the need for diversification of the nation’s economy from oil to agriculture and urged the people of the state to embark on dry season farming. He said the state government has entered into partnership with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) to support farmers with massive land clearing, farm equipment and other inputs for mechanised farming.
“With the dwindling oil prices, Nigerians must consider agriculture as a veritable alternative. We in Benue have already taken the initiative. I have told all members of the state executive council to individually encourage farming activities in their communities.
“Throughout the year, we can do farming here. We have two rivers – Benue and Katsina-Ala rivers – so sourcing water to irrigate crops is not a problem,” Ortom had maintained.