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ONDO state government has been charged to give priority to agriculture in the 2023 budget by committing 10 percent of the yearly budget to the sector to meet the 10 percent benchmark of the Maputo/Malabo Declaration.

This advice was handed out by stakeholders in the agriculture sector during a consultative forum on the 2023 Ondo State agriculture budget organized by the Justice Development and Peace Centre, JDPC held in Akure the Ondo state capital.

The forum which had in attendance farmers, representatives of the state government, scholars, and women involved in farming activities, noted that despite the contributions of the agriculture sector to the economy of the state.

They noted that the state has failed to activate the sector’s full potential, which can help achieve inclusive economic growth.

Speaking, the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan,

acknowledged the impact of agriculture and various challenges facing the sector.

The commissioner however said the government was making efforts to address the challenges raised by the stakeholders, saying the state government is committed to the benchmark of the Maputo/Malabo Declaration.

He said despite the challenges facing the sector, agriculture remains the largest contributor to the state’s GDP

Igbasan said: “The role of Agriculture in reducing rural poverty and empowering our farmers goes to the heart of our dear governor.

“At present, poverty and hunger a major challenge of our time. Over one billion hungry people all over the world can attest to this fact, having been hit by the current hike in food prices and the economic downturn and of course, they are also faced with the growing impact of climate change.

“However, the present administration is set to change the narrative by turning agriculture from subsistence practice to mega businesses generating gainful employment and wealth for all practitioners.”

Also Speaking, the commissioner for Agriculture and

forestry, Mr. Olayato Aribo expressed the government’s readiness to partner with relevant stakeholders in ensuring the growth of agriculture in the state.

He said the state government is ready to pay attention to the needs of real farmers across the state, to reduce hardship in the country and ensure food security.

According to him, the state government will also extend state agricultural grants to the farmers, who are majorly in the villages and farm settlements to achieve sustainable wealth.

He said: “The much-touted food security, employment generation, and economic diversification can only be achieved through the sector with our collective effort.”

But the stakeholders while analyzing budgetary allocations for agriculture in Ondo state since 2014, lamented that the state government had failed to comply with the 10 percent by the Maputo declaration which was adopted by the Heads of States in 2003 and ratified in Malabo by member countries that at least 10percent of the annual budget of any local, state and national government should be allocated for developing the agriculture sector to accelerate broad-based economic growth.

They noted that the reverse has been the case in Ondo state as the agriculture budget of the state still suffers from not meeting up with 10 percent which was placed as the least percentage for the agriculture sector annually.

The forum pointed out that despite the agriculture sector’s potential, there is no serious commitment to spending good money on agriculture development by the state government.

The stakeholders also called on the state government to ensure the timely and prompt release of funds for agricultural projects to foster the economic growth of the state.

They added that the release of funds for projects is ridiculous compared to the budget amount, noting that the average release of capital budget between 2014  and 2019 is just 2.31 percent of the capital budget.