The Nigerian government said it would supply 73 motorised harvesters at subsidised rates to farmers, to boost oil palm production in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, said this in Uyo on Monday at the 1st International Palm Produce Conference, IPPC, on the theme, Investment in Oil Palm and its Derivatives: A Panacea for African Economic Growth and Sustenance.
The minister, who was represented by the Director of Cooperatives in the ministry, Dickson Okolo, said that this would address the challenges faced by farmers in harvesting fresh fruit bunches.
The motorised harvesters, he said, have the capacity to harvest between 500 and 900 fresh fruit bunches per day. He added that before now, 70 per cent of mature fresh fruits were under-harvested.
The minister said the ministry was currently fabricating better mills for small and medium-scale plantations as well as processors to be made available to farmers across the country.
The minister said that under the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, NIFOR, had intensified efforts to produce improved oil palm seedlings, with about nine million improved seedlings to be raised and distributed to farmers under the project.
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio said that the theme of the conference was apt, as the hope of the country was no more dependence on crude oil, but agriculture.
Mr. Akpabio, who was represented by the Secretary to State Government, Udom Emmanuel, said that Nigeria must return to embrace agriculture, as the country was well endowed in this sector, adding that investing in agriculture would boost employment opportunities in the country and reduce youth restiveness.
Mr. Akpabio said that his administration had created the enabling environment for private investors to invest in agriculture, adding that there were enormous opportunities in the area.
The three-day conference was organised by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, in collaboration with National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria, NPPAN.