By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA-THE Federal Government has revealed that N2.98 billion will be needed to fight army worms’ invasion on 700, 000 hectares of farmland in the country.
This was stated by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while presenting the situation of the pest on farms at a meeting with the 36 States Commissioners of Agriculture and including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, described the challenge as major national catastrophe, which has affected crops such as maize, cocoa, rice and cotton, and others.
Ogbeh said if farmers lose their farmlands and be discouraged food supply and security will be threatened and the country will be in trouble for it, and that makes it important to plead with them while government source for fund to address their challenges.
He said: “As you have heard that about N2.98 billion is needed to fight this army worm in at least 700, 000 hectares of land across board especially those areas where the case is more pronounced.
“If they lose their farms and they refuse to farm, this country is in trouble. We will write to your governors and make them understand why they should do this while we see how we look out for funds.
“We also have huge amount of money to pay poultry farmers as compensation. Now we have no money, with the budget not signed into law.”
Meanwhile, the Minister also disclosed that the government needs over N1bn to compensate owners of over 800 farms, while 81 farmers yet to submit their claims.
According to the Minister it may be difficult to get the fund as the 2017 budget was yet to be passed into law, therefore the need to persuade the Budget Office and the Federal Ministry of Finance to help provide the needed funds to also pay poultry farmers’ compensation over bird flu attack.
“Over 800 farms have been affected by bird flu and the government need N1, 813, 893, 320, to pay poultry farmers as compensation, with 81 farmers yet to submit their claims. Now we have no money, with the budget not signed into law”, he stated.
In his presentation and update on the situation of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the country, the Director, Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Gideon Mshelbwala, said the disease reoccurred in six states and the FCT.
He said the outstanding payment has been forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Finance for payment saying verification of claims by farmers will commence soon.
In his remark, Ekiti State Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon. Kehinde Odebunmi, lamented that the army worms have invaded and terribly done damage to maize farms in all the local government areas of the state, therefore called on the Federal Government to intervene due to paucity of fund in the state to tackle the problem.
In the meantime, the Minister said a joint committee will be set up with members drawn from the States and Federal governments, which they will meet quarterly and provide contingency plans on ways to end the infestation.