The Federal Government has granted N600 billion approval through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as credit facilities to farmers to grow their farms for food security and sufficiency in the country.
The head, Vulnerable Symmetry Working Group (VSWG) CBN Financial inclusion, Akwa Ibom State Steering Committee, Mr Ogwuate Thomas Erasmus, made the disclosure in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area during the 3rd Oil Palm Summit with the theme "Cluster Farming as Poverty Alleviation Strategy by the leadership and membership of Oil Palm Plantation Owners Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society.
Erasmus disclosed that the CBN has given approval to 622 farmers for loans, advising oil palm farmers to own at least one hectare of improved oil palm seedlings farm to be able to draw down credit facilities from the apex bank.
He said the loans are given to farmers by the CBN on the basis of Cooperative Society Limited, emphasizing the need for farmers to own an account in addition to forming themselves into clusters.
His words: "Loans are given to farmers on the basis of Cooperative Society. As a farmer, you have to own a bank account as one of the conditions to benefit from the loans scheme to grow your farm.
Describing palm oil produced in Akwa Ibom as the best for consumption in Africa, he called for the establishment of oil palm refinery in the state to enable others to benefits from the agro products.
The president, National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN), Mr Alphonsus Inyang, called on the state government to consider as priority the establishment of grading centres for palm oil in strategic locations in the state.
Inyang explained that the establishment of grading oil palm centres by the state government would help the government to determine the quantity of oil palm taken out of the state for either consumption or industrial purposes.
The grading centres, he said, would as well help the state government to determine price control of palm oil in addition to controlling the quality of palm oil that are produced from the state by plantation owners and smallholder farmers.
He announced plans to make available about 50,000 improved oil palm seedlings to the state chapter of the Palm Produce Association of Nigeria for onward distribution to members for cultivation as a gradual replacement of the old wild palm trees.
Inyang also promised to provide 20,000 improved oil palm nurseries from the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) to smallholder farmers for cultivation in the state, describing oil palm as a tree of life where the people of Akwa Ibom should embrace as a culture for them to reap bountiful benefits from investment in the business.
The representative of Solidaridad, Mr Egong Owai, said out of 31 local government areas in Akwa Ibom, his international organization with headquarters in Enugu, has impacted on the lives of the oil palm farmers in 27 Local Government Areas of the state.
Owai explained that his organization, which deals and works with real farmers, has been to identify and train community facilitators to assist in the training of farmers on the Best Management Practices (BMP) to ensure increased yield of palm trees in the state.
The president, Oil Palm Plantation Owners Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society, Mr Udeme Bassey, explained that the 3rd Oil Palm summit, being a yearly event, was organized to enable Akwa Ibom farmers and stakeholders to come together and let other states in Nigeria know that they have comparative advantage in the production of oil palm in the country.
A goodwill message from the commissioner for information and strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong, on the important of oil palm was received on the occasion.