The Zero Hunger Forum, headed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has pledged to assist Ebonyi generate N48.4billion from rice production annually.
Obasanjo made the pledge on Tuesday in Abakaliki at a gala night organised by the Ebonyi Government after the forum’s two-day second quarterly meeting.
The former Nigerian leader said that the forum would offer technical assistance to the government in support of its massive rice production policy, aimed at meeting the rice needs of the country and beyond.
“We would encourage you to adopt irrigation and high mechanisation approach in rice production as both are indispensable in attaining massive rice production goals of any state or country.
“The state has 72, 000 hectares for rice production and with a target of six tonnes per hectare production; we would attain half a billion tonnes per hectare annually.
“This will translate into N48.4 billion revenue annually from rice production and this target is realisable with President Muhammadu Buhari showing great commitment towards agricultural revolution,” he said.
Obasanjo tasked relevant authorities in the country to combat smuggling, especially at the nation’s borders, stressing that the menace hampered revenue accruals from rice production.
“We have to check smuggling especially at the border with Benin Republic and when I faced this challenge as president, I drew the attention of late President Matthew Kerekou.
“I told him that we would allow his country’s goods into Nigeria because its economy was not bigger than Ogun’s, but we would not allow dumping of goods or smuggling.
“When these acts persisted, I closed the border and both of us later met in Badagry after five days and resolved the issue,” he said.
The former president commended Gov. Umahi for his accomplishment in provision of infrastructure in the state, and described him as “a child who has learnt to eat with elders.’’
In his remarks, Umahi thanked the former president and the Zero Hunger Forum, for convening the meeting in the state and pledged to renew his commitment to attain zero hunger in the state and country at large.
“The benefits of the zero hunger agenda are unquantifiable, and we thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his avid commitment towards agriculture, which Ebonyi has benefited greatly.
“Ebonyi used to find it difficult in the past to effectively harness its agricultural and mineral resources potential, but the president, vice president, ministers of agriculture and finance, among others, have assisted us greatly,” he said.
Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue, who also spoke, said Benue was ready to support Ebonyi and other states with its expertise in livestock farming and hatchery.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that other states in the pilot project of Zero Hunger Forum are: Benue, Ogun, Kebbi, Sokoto and Borno.