Nigeria’s quest to boost local rice production received a big boost on Monday with the commissioning of the new Cross Rivers stats rice seedling factory in Calabar by President Muhamamdu Buhari.
The project said to the biggest in Africa, improve yield per hector from the current national average of 3 to 4 tons per hectare to about 9 to 10 tons per hectare.
Current efforts to increase local rice production has reduced importation from 1.24 million tonnes in 2014, to 58,260 tonnes by 2017.
This represent as much as 91 per cent decline, even as government is banning rice importation from 2018.
Industry watchers believe that the reduction in Nigeria’s importation trend was facilitated by the successful implementation of the Anchor Borrowers’ scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), from which many states had benefited, helping to ensure rice sufficiency in the country and doing away with imports and saving foreign exchange for Nigeria.
President Muhamamdu Buhari while commissioning the project said he was visiting the state for the second time after performing the ground-breaking ceremony for the 274 kilometres superhighway earlier;
“When we assumed the reins of leadership of our dear country, this administration launched a zero-oil economic roadmap as a way of making our country less dependent on oil, while encouraging investments in other sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture”.
“I am happy that Governor Ayade keyed into that policy and has today become one of the reference points in our agricultural revolution effort”.
According to the President “ The factory, which is said to be the first in Africa, is an automated plant with a capacity to produce high yielding vitaminized and disease resistance rice seedlings.
“What we expect is that Seedlings from this factory will improve rice yield from the current national average of 3 to 4 tons per hectare to about 9 to 10 tons per hectare, thus helping to ensure rice sufficiency in the country and doing away with imports and saving foreign exchange for Nigeria”.
He commended Governor Ayade of Cross Rivers State for “boosting employment opportunities for the unemployed” adding that “I have no doubt that this rice factory will also be a veritable platform for income generation for the people of Cross River State”
“I therefore, enjoin relevant Federal Government Agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its Anchor Borrower’s Programme, to partner with Cross River in the area of supply of seedlings to our farmers”.
Governor Ayade’s government has other investments in agriculture such as the ongoing construction of an Ultra-modern Rice Mill in Ogoja, the Cotton Farm in Yala, the Cocoa Processing Plant in Ikom and the Banana Plantation in Odukpani, the feed Mill and Yellow Maize Farm in Obubra as well as the Ultra-modern Poultry Farm for export of frozen chicken amongst others, it is clear that Cross River has found a pathway to ease itself from over reliance on federal allocation.
Governor Ayade is seen as a visionary with a keen eye for the future by focusing on projects that are building a new economic base for the state rather than projects with short term benefits for the purpose of making cheap political gains. I sincerely commend Your Excellency’s vision.
“ As our country makes steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production, it is therefore, my hope and expectation that other states that are yet to fully take advantage of the zero-oil economic roadmap of the Federal Government will take a cue from Cross River State.