The Federal Government says it will gradually phase out the use of chemical fertilisers in agriculture to ensure the production of healthy foods for the people.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said this on Sunday while inspecting the first organic banana plantation by an Indian company, Contec Global Agro Limited in Kwali.
Ogbeh, who expressed worry over the increasing numbers of liver and kidney diseases among young people, explained that the objective was the elimination of dangerous elements from foods.
He noted that the move would also help to reduce the damages in the soil through the application of fertilisers.‘‘We are slowly going to begin to eliminate chemical fertilisers. Organic nature means that this is what nature is all about without polluting it with salt, the chemical fertilisers are salt.
‘‘They damage the soil of all kinds and over a while, you find out that the soil is no longer good for you because they destroy the microbes which make the soil more productive. We need to make the food healthier because a lot of self-poisoning is going on in the country.
‘‘Even the machines we use to grind tomatoes in the market, metal rubbing against metal; particles of heavy metals getting into the food.
‘Suddenly, you see a young person in the hospital, like 20 years of age suffering from liver and kidney problem and you ask, do you drink alcohol, he says no, then what is happening?‘‘We are not probing enough but we want to start in agriculture, eliminating dangerous elements from our food.
‘‘The place to begin is the farm, right from where you are planting, from the soil, from the bio-chemicals, the water, all of that has to be controlled and then you have healthy foods,’’ the minister said.
Ogbeh said the company was already conducting an experiment to develop microbes from the soil in the laboratory and putting them back into the soil without the use of chemicals.
The minister, who commended the owners of the organic banana farm, said that the Federal Government would continue to support both local and foreign investments in the agriculture sector.‘‘We are happy that in spite of the difficulties people face, they still remain and invest.
‘‘This is the message from Mr President, stay close to the investors, and give them all the support they need. If there are things you can’t handle yourself, come and tell me about them and I will do that,’’ he said.
Mr Thomas Chackunkal, the Managing Director, Contec Global Agro, the initiators and owners of the banana farm, said the plantation was a 250 hectare biologically safe demonstration farm.
Chackunkal said the banana plantation would be replicated in Osun, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Taraba, Edo and Oyo States.
‘‘We want to attract the young people. We want a holistic approach to provide all the basic needs like housing, schools, primary health care,’’ he said.
Contec agro develops organic farming products such as bio-seed, bio-fertiliser, and bio-planting to help Africa develop its agricultural industry and ensure food security for the populace.