The Delta State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Godfrey Enita, has expressed concern over the extent of damage wrought by flood on rice farm in the state.
The Commissioner spoke with newsmen on Thursday after inspecting a 100 hectares rice farm taken over by flood.
The farm is at the Benin-Owena River Basin Authority in Ngegwu, Ajaji-Illah, Oshimili North Local Government Area of the state.
According to Enita, the damage to the rice farm is colossal, huge and massive.
He said: “In fact, when the report got to me, I did not know that it was of this magnitude.
“When I first saw the video, most part of the farm was above the water, but as you can see, more than 70 per cent of the entire rice farm land is under water.
“That tells you how massive the loss, but I must commend the farmer.
“He is a dogged person because of his commitment.
“These are people the government should encourage, particularly for someone who had invested much and only to experience this huge loss due to flooding.”
Enita gave the assurance that the state government would liaise with appropriate authorities to do what would be necessary to support the farmer to remain in business.
He noted that the magnitude of damage was enough to discourage the farmer if nothing was done to keep him afloat.
The Commissioner said that the issues on how to secure the programme on food security would remain a national discourse.
He said that the issues of flooding must occupied the centre stage if the nation must sustain the policy on food security.
According to him: “We are aware that dams will be opened and flooding will come, but why something tangible has not been done to stem it over the years is what we cannot understand.”
The Commissioner said that as state government, there was nothing much that could be done to stop the flooding.
“But we will continue to support our farmers in all ways possible to give them hope and encourage them to stay in their businesses,” Enita said.
On his part, the Managing Director, Merrybell Rice Farm, Felix Okonti, who lost 50 hectares (about 250 metric tonnes of rice) farm to the flood, said his total loss was about N72 million.
According to Okonti, the total hectarage under the river basin land development is 100 hectares, which was leased to the Delta State Government Ministry of Agriculture Assisted Rice production.
He said: “Out of this, I own 50 hectares, and because we are mindful that there will be flood, we first planed planting faru 44, but due to delay in inputs, we opted for flood resistant variety, called Buga rice variety from Jos, which we planted in this field.
“We did not envisage that the height of flood will be this high.
“Normally, this variety is supposed to withstand the flood, but this is not the situation.
“As you can see, it has covered all the plants and going by the average of five to seven tonnes of rice per hectare, the gravity of loss is colossal.
“It takes about 120 days (three months) for this variety to mature, and these have reached 72 days when the flood came and as you can see, there is nothing to salvage from the farm.”
Okonti, who encouraged himself said that in spite of the loss he would venture into dry season rice farming from November.
According to him, the farm is insured.
He said given the current market price, the total loss is about N72 million.
He, however, advised the Federal Government, as the manager of river basins and inland waterways, to construct the needed dams along the River Niger/Benue Basin to absorb the waters that cause havoc along the states in the area.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Commissioner in company of the Permanent Secretary, Ben Agamah and Okonti among others paddled on a canoe through the flooded rice farm to a certain the extent of damage.