A Cassava and Starch Processing Factory built by the Bayelsa State government is yet to commence operations eight years after it was established.
The 60-metric tonnes facility, which sits on a 40 hectares of land at Ebedebiri in the Sagbama Local Government Area of the state, was established by the administration of former Governor Seriake Dickson in February 2013.
A visit by the Federated Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to the farm showed some deflated tractors and overgrown weeds that had overtaken the premises.
Speaking in an interview with the journalists in his office, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr David Alagoa explained that the facility was under lock and key pending its inauguration by the state Governor, Mr Douye Diri.
Alagoa said, “It (the facility) is locked up until it is commissioned. We have test-run it. It is working. His Excellency has been with us. We ran the whole machines.
“After that, we are bracing up for commissioning. Before the commissioning, we will start it off again.”
He also said that the planting of cassava to service the factory would be done by the communities in the locality, adding however that “it’s a two-way thing because the factory itself has its own cassava farm.”
Asked how much the state government had so far spent on the project since it started, Alagoa said he would not know.
“I don’t know. It’s been coming since before I was here (appointed). So I don’t know the exact details in terms of money,” he said.
Shedding more light on the planting of cassava, the commissioner stated: “That is the whole idea. The idea is that you take the people along. There is no way you would run a farm like that successfully if, firstly, you don’t have your bank of cassava as a factory.
“And because you don’t have enough land, you will definitely have to buy from people around. So it’s part of the value-chain. The factory is somewhere in the middle.
“The raw materials come from the farms of the communities into the factory for the production of starch. What they are producing is industrial starch.”