The Federal Government on Wednesday distributed 150 bags of improved rice seedlings and other inputs to farmers in Ebonyi State.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Nanono, said the gesture was intended to boost wet season rice farming in the state.
According to him, the programme is an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The minister, represented by a director in the ministry, Khalima Babangida, said the items were freely distributed to farmers to boost rice production.
Mrs Babangida, was represented by another senior official of the ministry, Augustine Okezie.
Mr Nanono commended the Ebonyi State Government for providing safe environment for farmers and urged the beneficiaries to utilise the items to enhance rice production.
He also warned them against selling or misusing the inputs received.
He said, “The 50-kilogramme bags of rice seedling is a high-yield improved variety (Faro 44) and it is expected that each beneficiary will receive one bag that will cover one hectare of farm land.
“It is also our expectation that beneficiaries will have bumper harvest and luckily, Ebonyi is the only state in the South-east that is benefitting from the programme.
“The inputs are not for sale and this is the first time any government is doing something like this to farmers freely. It has not happened before.
“Federal government is going to monitor how the inputs are utilised to ensure that they are not diverted or sold.
“Much has been given to you and much is expected from you,” Mr Nanono said.
He assured the farmers of the federal government’s continued assistance to ensure food sufficiency in Ebonyi and the country at large.
Earlier, the state Coordinator of FMARD, William Obazi, thanked the federal government for its intervention and urged beneficiaries to use the items to boost rice production and make the commodity affordable.
He said, “Our agricultural extension officers will monitor your performances and ensure that you are going to use the inputs wisely.
“Please, always come to us for proper assistance, if you do not know how to use or apply any of the inputs.
“Do not sell or misuse any of the items,” Mr Obazi said.
Also, the Project Manager, Agriculture Development Programme (ADP), Okike Onwuasonye, lauded the federal government and JICA for the initiative.
Mr Onwuasonye promised that the beneficiaries would deploy the inputs for the purpose they were intended.
“We have not disappointed the federal government in any of the intervention programmes in the state.
“We will do what is expected of us with the inputs so that farmers in the state will continue to benefit from other interventions,” he said.
Two beneficiaries, Agara Onuoha and Victoria Evo, thanked the federal government and its foreign partner for the gesture.
They said the initiative would enable them increase rice yield this farming season.
NAN reported that the inputs included 600 bags of fertiliser (NPK 20-10-10 and 300 Urea brands), herbicides, pesticides and soil mender.