By Fatima Muraina
Cashew farmers in Ondo state have been urged to increase their production to add significantly to the national output of the crop for exportation.
The State Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Sunday Akintomide threw the challenge to farmers as the country rakes in $800m from cashew exportation.
Akintomide while speaking in an interview with The Hope yesterday in Akure, described cashew as another revenue generating crop which will improve the farmers standard of living and as well, increase the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.
He said government had distributed hybrids cashew seedlings free of charge to farmers to encourage and assist them while some seedlings were still available for interested people at a subsidized rate.
He noted that government is ready to further assist them in the area of provision of land and urged them to form association of cashew farmers through which such land could be acquired on request.
He restated that the state in collaboration with the ministry of Agriculture and Ondo State Agribusiness Empowerment Center (OSAEC) and the CBN were ready to establish what he called land bank where every local government is expected to donate at least 2,000 hectares of land each totalling 36,000 hectares which will be given to farmers for farming.
He also disclosed that the state has lands in the degraded areas within its forest reserve areas which could be given to them for cashew plantation.
The Special Assistant to the Governor on Natural Resources. Mr Fatai Lawal in a chat, said the state has an average annual production of about 2,000 metric tons of the crop which he said does not contribute significantly to national output.
Lawal observed that cashew is grown mostly in the northern part of the state on relatively small area of farmland.
According to him, “the Ministry of Agriculture and the Office of the Senior Special Assistant on Agriculture were in the best position to discuss the production aspect saying that the Produce Services department of the Ministry of Natural Resources deals with agricultural commodities in post-harvest forms.
He stressed further that the department is mostly concerned about the quality, storage, de-infestation (pest control) and processing of scheduled farm produce.
It would be recalled that Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammed, Sabo Nanono has estimated the national production capacity of cashew to 250,000 metric tons per annum, saying Nigeria is the fourth-largest producer in the world and second in Africa in cashew cultivation.