The Cross River State government has launched its premium quality rice, as part of its quota to the Federal Government’s self-sufficiency drive in rice production.
Governor Ben Ayade, who performed the ceremony in Calabar, urged Cross Riverians to key into farming, adding that the choice of going into farming was deliberate.
He lamented that until 2015, the Federal Government was bleeding as a result of billions of naira spent annually on the importation of rice, noting that such a situation was not favourable to a country with about 923,000sq km and 40 per cent fertile land for rice.
“If you don’t own a farm then you are not sensitive to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari that says agriculture is the alternative to the oil roadmap. You have to do something, you can’t be in government or be an African and you don’t own a farm,” he noted.
Worried about the challenges faced by the people as a result of meager salaries, social burden and family pressure, Ayade said his administration has created an economic platform that allows access for funding, including the commercial agriculture credit facility, even as the state has set up a microfinance bank to provide financial support for those who want to go into agriculture.
“I realise that having a nucleus farm that I do have, cannot sustain the amount of rice that I intend to turn over in a year, Ayade Farms that produces Ayade rice will also be ready from my facility to buy off from everybody who is a rice farmer, mill it and add up to Ayade Farm value chain.”
The governor while announcing the price for the product, explained that he was not targeting money but how to recover the loan obtained, hence, “the market price for a 50kg will be pegged at N12, 000, while the 25kg bag will go for N6, 000 in Cross River, in appreciation of the trust and votes you gave to us.”
He enjoined the Federal Government to assist Nigerians in providing infrastructure, such as water, irrigation including the milling machines and purchasing mechanism so as to meet up the demands in agriculture.
In their separate goodwill messages, Deputy Governor Ivara Esu, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, John Gaul Lebo, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) representative, Dr. Umoren Aniefiok, as well as Muntari Dandutse of the Federal House of Representatives, among others, lauded the governor for setting the pace, creating employment opportunities and saturating the Nigerian market with organic and top quality rice.
Meanwhile, the state government has disclosed its readiness to export its ‘grand nain’ species of banana.The governor stated this when he visited the 105-hectares banana plantation situated in Odukpani Local Council area of the state.
He disclosed that the first harvest should be expected in May, while the commercial export harvest would be in 2019. Ayade explained that, “governors must convert to action the statement of President Buhari that the road map to zero oil is agriculture and that is what I am doing here to interpret the statement of Mr. President to suggest that I have a picture of what the future holds.
“We expect that the agro-based industry, which is the focus of President Buhari administration that I have keyed into, focuses on finding agricultural products that we will be exporting. If we must grow agriculture, we must make sure we take it away from subsistence farming, ensuring that those farming don’t do so in agony, pain, hunger and melancholy, but follow the latest trend, which is mechanised, and technology driven.
“We have the cable train running all round, so with the press of a button, bananas go through the plant, processed, packaged and exported to Germany and other countries. It will provide the sufficient out bank cargo from our deep seaport, that way, we don’t have a situation where ships come into Nigeria and after discharging they have nothing to take back.”
The Operations Manager, Cobus Schlcbusch, disclosed that the plantation would be using a combination of Mexico and Costa Rica technology and would also be supplying to local markets, as well as export to other countries.According to him, “the banana bunches will be between 35 and 40 kg, even as personnel working in the plant will be trained to meet the requirements expected of perfect and packaged products to be exported” adding that, “the parental seedlings from Mexico and Costa Rica remain unique and can resist crop related diseases in Nigeria.”