Engineer Michael Ogbuekwe was appointed by the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Dr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in 2019 as a Special Adviser to the Governor on Agriculture.
Before his appointment, he had worked as an Senior Special Assistant on Agriculture to Governor of Anambra State, Director General of the Project Management and Monitoring Office, and secretary of the Anambra Land Acquisition Committee.
During his stay in Anambra, he was instrumental to the development of both large scale commercial agriculture and small scale farming. He introduced the two pronged approach to agricultural development(large and small scale agriculture), and spearheaded the launch of the Anambra Rice brand which helped farmers achieve massive sales across the state.
In this interview with JUNGLE JOURNALIST MAGAZINE, Ogbuekwe speaks on the diverse areas that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State is revolutionising agriculture.
We have heard of Ebonyi rice, Osikapa Abia, bit am not sure we have heard of Enugu rice. Is there something you are doing about the Enugu rice industry?
As a matter of fact, the governor of Enugu State Rt Hon Dr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has gone a step in trademarking agricultural products. First of them is the Enugu was ice also known as Coal City rice. This will be launched very soon. We have also registered Enugu garri, palm oil, cashew, okra vegetables, Nsukka pepper. There are eight brands that have been registered. In fact if you listen to the budget speech of His Excellency, the Governor, he mentioned it. The work is going on underground. You don’t see what is going on until the birth.
Farmers in the state have been aggregated, millers have been sensitised, and in a short while you will see Coal City rice, all farmed, harvested, processed and bagged in Enugu State. This will boost the economy of the rural communities. The governor is very keen about developing the economy of the rural areas. He calls it ‘The Local Economy Development’.
When all these brands have been put into the market, you will see what will happen. The entire value system of agriculture will be developed and if you can’t cultivate, you can process. If you can’t process, you can bag. If you can’t bag, you can market.
If you can’t market, you can eat, so the value chain will be developed.
These loans and offers, does it go to the farmers associations and cooperatives or can individual farmers also benefit?
It’s for all farmers in the state. In a short time the demand will be so high that we will practically be begging everybody to go to farm. You and I know that when you want to buy rice for instance-you will want to buy rice with it stones, polished and all. So by the time you get our millers to mill the rice to this standard, every rice in the state becomes important and the demand will be so high. So if you use to buy imported rice, your taste bud will change and you will want to begin to eat home grown rice. With this you can see that whether you belong to an association or not, what we will be needing is your rice to boost the Enugu economy.
There is a lot of effort made by Enugu farmers who are basically farmers. Is the Government giving them any subventions in terms of loans, products and such?
As a matter of fact, Enugu State is participating in the Central Bank Anchor Borrowers programme for rice which will attract loans from Central Bank for onward lending to farmers.
This is to increase rice programme in this state. We have been talking with Central Bank and farmers associations in the state. Then we also have the SME centre which give loans to farmers. Quite a number have benefited in the past and it’s still ongoing. This is in addition to the training that the Ministry of Agriculture provides for farmers and technical services which will be rammed up more this year.
Is there anything the Government is doing to see that farm settlements like Ada Rice and Palm begin to function as they used to in the past?
Yes. The Ada rice you are talking about is at Adani. That is the next for the Central Bank programme. That is where everything will commence because it’s a very huge facility. They will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of all he branding and the Central Bank intervention we are talking about.
There are also other parts of the state that do well in rice like Aninri, Nkanu East, Isiuzo, Ezeagu-name them. They will all be captured and their capacities will improve.
Talk about palm. We went on inspection of existing palm plantations and don’t forget that we also have private palms. So we are talking about our Enugu palm oil brand. We need to feed it from every palm tree in the state, so our job is to aggregate and standardise production, and create a seamless synergy between processing mills and the palm plantations in the state. We also went to the one at Ugwuoba,where there is 500 hectares of palm right there.
Then cashew, there are it’s plantations all over the state. We are working with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council and we will standardise the nuts we have. We will create more and better processing centers so that the quality of cashews we export will be better, and as well the ones we consume in the state and he country.
Same with Nsukka pepper. It’s one of the best with very good aroma. We are working to multiply it’s production and by the best agronomic practices.
We have met with some companies who are interested in buying from our farmers to package for export.
We have a lot of okra along the Aninri axis. Instead of have them laid to waste, package them properly and get into our supermarkets. We are aware that pharmaceutical comeliness use it for drugs. We are also taking with some of these people.