Hard times await oil palm farmers in Akwa Ibom State this farming season as the state government has no seedlings for farmers.
The farmers said the situation had persisted for over three years, and a visit to the state’s nursery at NtakInyang showed that the place is empty, with only a handful of seedlings, which allegedly belong to some civil servants.
They noted that before now they could source seedlings from the state, but it appears the government is shifting emphasis from palm oil to other agricultural produce like coconut, cassava, poultry, and others.
Confirming the development, the Managing Director, Atlantic Imperial Farm, Bassey Essien, said: “before now, I used to source my seedlings from the state nursery.
But of late, I have to source it directly from the Nigerian Institute For Oil Palm Research, NIFOR, and we also import some from Thailand as well as Indonesia directly.
So I strongly believe that Akwa Ibom for instance, is a major player, and in fact the biggest producer, because when you look at it from the point of view of a smallholder unit, and also the produce from the wild groove, we cultivated up to 60 percent of the total palm produce in this country.
The State Government traditionally normally brings in sprouting nuts from NIFOR to start raising them against the planting season of March and April when we have our first rainfall.”
Essien further argued that “the situation is bleak because that sector provides a lot of employment to our youths especially in the rural areas, and it still has the capacity to employ more. But if we harness this properly, I think it can give us much more money than even the money we have from the derivation revenue from the federal level as well as other sources of income.”
He also cited lack of credit facility from banks as another challenge facing farmers in the state, decrying that “the banks don’t give us loan