Akwa Ibom Boosts Rice Production, Targets Price Crash

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To advance his drive towards food sufficiency in Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel is set to boost rice production with the commissioning of a 1.5 million metric tons of rice mill in the State, billed for this week.

The eventual goal, the Governor says, is to crash the price of the staple.

Governor Emmanuel announced this in Uyo when members of the Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency led by the chairman, Edet Udoh, presented some samples of the 50kg bags of the product to the State Executive Council at the Exco Chamber just before the commencement of the monthly executive council meeting, last Wednesday.

While making the presentation, Udo said the brand-new rice mill located in Ini Local Government Area of the State, has already produced over 10,000 50kg bags ready for the market with the intention to flood the market with the product once the mill is commissioned.

The Technical Committee chairman said the feat was the outcome of an MoU singed between the State Government and a private investor, Agricon, in July 2016.

Under the terms of the agreement, according to him, the State Government was to, among other obligations, provide land for both farms and mill with access roads while Agricon was to set up and manage both farms and mills with requisite training for the workforce.

So far, Udoh noted that over 80 hectares of the 290 hectares of the farmland acquired for the exercise has been cultivated even as 176,000 metric tons of rice has been produced from the mill with installed capacity for 1.5 million metric tons.

Also he noted that 10,000 of the 50kg bags of the Faro-52 type long-grain rice were ready to hit the market ahead of the commissioning while the committee was set to flood the market with the product after the commissioning with a view to crashing the price of rice in line with the Governor’s agenda to the committee.

Elated by the progress made so far by the committee, Governor Emmanuel applauded Udoh and his team for their ability to translate his dream of food sufficiency, which includes availability and affordability, for the people of the state.

Governor Emmanuel recalled that the committee had earlier achieved a similar feat in the area of garri production.

He noted, for instance, that garri-the people’s staple – was selling for 8-10 cups for a thousand Naira when he assumed office; that worried by the near unaffordability of the staple item by the majority of the people of the state, he had inaugurated the technical committee with the sole agenda of raising Agriculture from the then subsistence status to a flourishing Agro-business model, primarily to launch the state into an era of food sufficiency.

Today, the Governor noted, the same product (garri) was selling for as much as 35-40 cups to a naira. He expressed delight that the technical committee, working in conjunction with the state Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, was set to re-enact that feat in the area of rice, another staple.

Governor Emmanuel has often expressed the belief that no nation or government can be said to be making any meaningful progress if it cannot feed its citizens.

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In tune with this philosophy, the Governor has, through the Agric ministry and the technical committee, gone into notable PPPs (public private sector partnerships) to boost food production in the state.

One of such partnerships has resulted in the setting up of large cassava plantations and processing mills in each of the three senatorial districts of the state. These have saddled themselves with the task of cultivation, production and processing of cassava into garri and related food items. The outcome is the availability and affordability of the staple in all nooks and crannies of the state.

In yet another of such PPP models, a foreign firm, San Carlos, has since started the production of tomatoes and similar vegetables from the Green Houses located on the neighbourhood of the Uyo International Airport.

The state commissioner for agriculture and food sufficiency, Uduak Udoinyang, says, what is going right with the PPP model is that the investors are not only eyeing the home market but are as well, targeting the export market in their mid – long-term marketing proposals.