Plateau: Boosting agriculture through re-acquisition of old farms

Mindful of the ravaging impact of economic meltdown, MUHAMMAD TANKO SHITTU writes that Plateau state government has re-acquired a gigantic farm for large scale food production. 
Over a decade ago, precisely in the late 80’s, Plateau state government established a large arable land as a farm for large-scale cultivation of various crops and livestocks. Known as Brewery Agro Research Company (BARC), it has thousands hectares of land situated at Zallaki Village in Bassa local government area with some earth dams for both rainy and dry seasons cultivation.

It was used for grains cultivation beside rearing chickens, cows, rams and pigs as commercial agriculture that had been a great source of employment to the people and also a source of revenue generation for the state government.A fully mechanised method of farming was the feature of the farm with another processing firm, the Pioneer Milling Company (PMC), which used to grind produce for use and bye-products for other industrial purposes. However, due to lack of maintenance, it was sold off to rear admiral Murtala Nyako in the early 90s, thereby denying the state and its populace the advantage of both food security, employment, economic growth and sustainability.

Gov Lalong reacquired the farm

Plateau, being one of the agricultural hubs of Nigeria, has over those years been grappling with the trouble of crops and livestock farming mostly on the issue of land dispute, which had also impacted negatively on economic advancement. Disturbed by such developments coupled with the federal government’s diversification policy in favour of agriculture, the administration deemed it necessary to reacquired the farms to boost agricultural activities, hence the farm was finally bought back recently.
While addressing the people during the last Democracy Day celebration, Lalong said, “You would recall that BARC farms including the Pioneer Milling Company in Zallaki was not only a major source of employment in the state, but a huge economic investment for the promotion of mechanised agriculture which went into oblivion and was subsequently sold out in the 90s.”
He added further that, “This government took the bold step in the face of dwindling financial resources to re-acquire the shares worth 1.5 billion naira. I am glad to inform Plateau citizens that it is now our commonwealth.”Lalong said in consonance with the development, they are beginning the symbolic allocation of portions of the farm on a rent basis for a period of six months to interested civil servants, pensioners, farmers association, the host community, political office holders and PIPC within the 1,000 hectares that has been set aside for that purpose.
Subsequently, he further led his cabinet in celebration of the 2020 Democracy Day to flag-off the allocation of 1,000 hectares to members of All Farmers Association, interested civil servants, pensioners, political office holders and members of the host community under a temporary arrangement.”The re-acquisition of BARC Farms was a very bold step to return the pride of Plateau state and create jobs by reviving commercial agriculture which the farm was reputed for. In its days of glory, the farm was into cultivation of dry and irrigated crops such as grain, vegetable and tree crops, cattle ranches, poultry farms with parent and hatchery units, rearing of pigs, abattoir for poultry, cattle as well as a big dam for fishery.”
In a statement by his director of press and public affairs, Dr Makut Macham, Lalong said, so far, the government has paid 1billion naira for the re-acquisition of BARC Farm shares, representing about 70 percent of the total sum and hoping to complete the balance before the end of the year.”
Lalong hoped that in the long run, the farm, which has potential for occupying over 30% to 40% share of the agro-allied market in Nigeria, would leverage on its existing structures to cultivate crops that the state has comparative advantage in.He had also in his broadcast told the citizens that Plateau being an agrarian state, has continued to devote significant attention to agriculture which is one of their three areas of comparative advantages. “As a result, we took various steps to ensure that farmers are encouraged not only to produce, but empowered to engage in mechanised and large scale farming. For the 2020 farming season, the government has procured and subsidized several farm inputs to the tune of 400,000000 naira,” he said.

According to him, to consolidate their position as the number one producer of potatoes in Nigeria, they continued partnership with the African Development Bank (ADB) to increase farmers’ capacity and yield, provide quality seed, teach modern production methods, and provide infrastructural and value chain support.
“In furtherance to that, the Potato Tissue Culture Laboratory in Mangu has been completed to facilitate the production of high quality potato variety. Under this project, we carried out an adaptability test in eight local governments that before now were thought to be unsuitable for potato production. The outcome proved that today, we can produce potatoes in all the 17 LGAs of the state,” he said.
Lalong said 1,500 irrigation water pumps were procured and distributed to farmers in the 17 local government areas to facilitate irrigation farming of potato and vegetables during the dry season.
“We also facilitated wheat and barley research in Plateau state which shows that we can cultivate 18 varieties. In line with this, we profiled and empowered 150 farmers to commence wheat and barley production in Plateau,” he said.

The concerns

Investigation however shows that security is a major cause for concern as far as Zallaki and it’s environ is concern. To that effect, while people are happy with the reopening of the farms, people are worried about insecurity.”We need to have adequate security to our lives,” Mr Joseph Musa Jingir, a resident of the area said.He said one other concern is the deplorable situation of road networks into the farm.However, the state commissioner for agriculture Hon Hosea Finangwai, said the state government was aware of the concerns about security and deplorable road infrastructure.”Government is already taking steps to address those fears to re-assure the farmers of their safety and investment.

Words of appreciation.

Impressed by the reacquisition and reopening of the farms, a member of the state House of Assembly, representing the localities, Hon Yakubu Sanda, said his constituents are assured of another means of employment. “Reacquiring the farms would restore to us as a people our lost pride. As representatives of the people, I express my appreciation and joy of the traditional council and the good people of Pengana.”
Hon Sanda further said Lalong’s substantive commitments towards reacquiring BARC farms would spring up other businesses.”In that hope, we see small and medium businesses and employment springing up again in the constituency as a result of the farm coming back to life,” he enthused.
Blueprint reports that the state government had some years back procured and disbursed 400 units of tractors, revamped the moribude Bokkos fertiliser plant towards reinvigorating value chains in food production and security; however, to what extent is the sector taking advantage of the comparative advantage available to the state?

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