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By Ovat Lawrence.
Timely and collaborative efforts to strengthen the Oil Palm sub sector of the State economy gained a significant boost with the recent renewal of commitment by the Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria (OPGAN), Cross River State Chapter.
Declaring the purpose of the association’s visit to the Honourable Commissioner for Agriculture and Irrigation, Hon Johnson Andiambey  Ebokpo, the team lead who doubled as the State Vice chairman of OPGAN, Ntufam Innocent submitted that the association had come to congratulate the Commissioner on his appointment and applaud him for intentionally driving all the agricultural programmes of His Excellency, Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu  since he assumed  office.
Discussing critical issues surrounding
the development of  3.5million Oil palm hybrid seedlings by the State Government, Mr. Innocent intimated that the State Chapter of OPGAN is very functional, active and well positioned to deliver necessary support such as identifying actual farmers within the subsector.
He further explained that the collaboration is necessary in order to successfully actualize the Governor’s “People First” agenda as it relates to procurement and raising of the 3.5million hybrid seedlings, the Association is equally ready to assist in that regard.
Sharing their challenges,  one of the members, Mr. Owali Ileum, Member national board of trustees lamented that they were not carried along in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the State Government and their National Body without recognizing the existence of the State Chapter. According to Owali, the action was a deliberate attempt to sideline their functions.
He therefore appealed to the State Government for review of the MOU previously signed, so that the State Chapter of OPGAN can be fully onboarded to function.
In His response,the Commissioner for Agriculture *Hon. Johnson Andiambey Ebokpo KSM* reiterated the Government’s commitment to boost the Oil palm sector. He assured that the State Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Development would   take up the responsibility of raising the Oil palm seedlings under the supervision of the State OPGAN branch and distribute to farmers at a subsidized rate in order to boost the Oil palm value chain.
Ebokpo explained that the decision to use the State OPGAN for supervision aligns with the present administration’s resolve to deal with agriculture from the fundamentals, adding that the partnership is necessary in order to track Oil palm farmer’s data.
The Commissioner further maintained that “it will be effort in futility, after  raising 3.5million seedlings without having the database of real farmers to off-take”,  noting that the State OPGAN knows the real Oil Palm farmers due to their regular engagements.
After further Interactions, it was agreed that critical Stakeholders like State Chapter of OPGAN, SOLIDARIDAD and others  who were not involved in the previous MOU signed between the OPGAN would all be involved in the new arrangement.
It was also agreed that when the Oil Palm seedlings are ready for transplanting, the State Government shall, through the State OPGAN chapter organise sensitisation and public enlightenment for farmers to take advantage and offtake the seedlings to their farms.
Others in attendance were : Mr. Ubana Ubi Bassey, Director Tree Crops, Mrs Winifred .A. Okon, former Comptroller  of Customs, Mr. Arikpo Arikpo, the State Chapter Secretary, Mrs Glory Odu Orji, and Hon. Moses Akpare.

Amawu Cletus Albert Amawu

I'm a Journalist, Host/Producer of The Verdict, your voice of conscience on FAD FM 93.1, Calabar, Public Affairs Commentator, Social Change Agent.

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