Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia on Friday inaugurated the 2014 free distribution of 600,000 improved cocoa seedlings to farmers in the state.
Orji said at a brief ceremony held at Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia, that the distribution of seedlings was part of government’s initiatives to reposition cocoa production in the state.
He said that the measure was geared toward making cocoa one of the mainstay of the state’s economy.
The governor said a monitoring team would be inaugurated to supervise the effective utilisation of the seedlings by the farmers to ensure higher productivity.
“I want Abia to occupy a leading position in cocoa production in Nigeria in the next few years,’’ he said.
Orji said the good features of the seedlings included their early maturing and high yielding prospects.
He said other efforts aimed at increasing agricultural production in the state included the recent N2 billion Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) facility for agro-based small-scale industrialists in the state.
He recalled that the 2012 CBN facility of N1 billion disbursement to farmers in the state was to encourage farmers and ensure food security.
The governor said that the Liberation Farms, set up in each of the three senatorial districts of the state had helped to train farmers in modern farming techniques and gave the assurance that government would continue to train and retrain farmers to ensure value addition to their produce.
He urged the people of the state to ‘’go back to land,’’ warning that although the nation’s oil wells would one day dry up, ‘’agriculture will never dry up’’.
Orji urged cocoa farmers to be more committed and not to allow cocoa farming to die, given its huge prospects in the transformation of the economy of the farmer, the state and nation.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Chief Chijioke Onwutuebe, said distribution of free seedlings by the government started in 2012 with 350,000 seedlings.
Onwutuebe said the number was increased to 450,000 in 2013 and urged cocoa farmers to take advantage of the opportunity to improve their fortune.
Mr Sam Odoemelam, the Director of Agriculture in charge of the state-wide development of agriculture, said
the Ministry of Agriculture would intensify efforts to increase the state’s capacity in cocoa production.
Odoemelam listed the five major cocoa producing local government areas of the state as Bende, Ikwuano, Arochukwu, Umuahia South and Ohafia.