Cross River Rice Seedling Factory Will Deliver N14bn Annually—Gov. Ayade

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Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on the rice seedling facility project at its inaguration ceremony in Calabar recently

The industrialisation effort of Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, has started yielding fruit as its rice seedling factory built with N3bn has commenced full production and will transform the economy of the state by yielding N14bn annually.

Governor Ayade made this known to newsmen in Calabar, the state capital recently at the inauguration ceremony of the Rice Seedling and Seed Multiplication Factory located along Goodluck Ebele Jonathan Bypass in Calabar, the state capital.

He said the federal government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), has placed a N3 billion order for the state to supply rice seedlings to all the states in the southern part of the country.

The governor, who noted that the Rice Seeds and Seedlings Factory was his first term project, said his administration was inspired to go into agriculture because of President Buhari’s focus on the sector as a way of diversifying the country’s economy away from oil. He said the factory is built to tackle the challenge of low-yielding seeds in rice production in the state and in the country as a whole.

Governor Ayade showing President Muhammadu Buhari the hectares of land available for the rice seedling facility project.

In his keynote address at the inauguration ceremony President Muhammadu Buhari described the facility as a reference point in Nigeria’s effort to kick-start a revolution in agriculture. President Buhari said by conceiving the project, it is evident that governor Ayade has a keen eye for tomorrow, 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.

The president then directed the federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its Anchor Borrowers programme, to partner the Cross River State government for the supply of rice seedlings to farmers across the nation.

It is on record that since its establishment, the rice seedling factory has drawn wide commendation from key personalities within the country.  The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele was among the bigwigs that have applauded the project. The Governor, who gave the commendation during the flag off of the 2019 wet season rice farming programme held in Calabar, the state capital, commended Governor Ayade’s agricultural revolution programme, saying it has made the State a force to be reckoned with.

Speaking at the Ayade Industrial Park, venue of the flag off, the CBN governor who was represented by the Calabar Branch controller, Chuks Sokari, affirmed that “the resoluteness to agriculture by Governor Ayade has created hallmarks which the entire world recognises. He said “the seriousness demonstrated by the governor in the renewed zeal to project and promote agriculture has made Cross River a leading state in the comity of states in the nation.”

Former Governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke (right) commending Governor Ayade during his recent visit to the rice seedling facility base.

The landmark project also gladdened the heart of the state’s former governor, Donald Duke. In a recent visit to the facility to assess the level of work done so far, he noted that the state governor, Ayade might well deserve a nobel prize for initiatiating and birthing the project.  The ex-governor said: ‘From all what I have seen, this rice facility can enable the entire West Africa sub-region to be served sufficiently with rice. If all that Governor Ayade did was to ensure that the entire sub-region of West Africa is self-sustaining when it comes to rice production, then, the governor deserves a nobel prize and has every right to beat his chest.’

Meanwhile, while conducting journalists round the factory during its commissioning by President Muhammadu Buhari, the state Commissioner of Agriculture, Prof. Anthony Eneji, said the products from the factory will meet the hybrid seed demands of farmers in the entire south-south and south-east regions.

Eneji said the factory will yield an estimated N1.2bn monthly from about 1, 000 hectares of land which conservatively is put at about N14bn annually. His words: “If we get eight tonnes per hectare from each of 1, 000 hectares, each harvest within three weeks or a month will yield a return of N1.2bn. If one tone of hybrid rice is sold at N150, 000, then you can use your calculator and do the arithmetic you will know we are talking in billion of naira.”

He said the factory would be self sustaining in the long run, adding that the state government, in its drive for proper management, has also put the factory under the supervision of a special SUV called Cross River Rice Company under the Ministry of Agriculture.

The commissioner noted that at the moment, the facility can handle between 200 and 300 hectares, adding that the output would be raised as demands increase.

“For now, we can handle up to 200 or 300 hectares in this facility. The seedlings are raised on demand basis. You know they have to be taken off within three weeks. Our local rice are grown in about two tonnes per hectare at best, but with the hybrid seeds, we aim at a minimum of between eight and nine tonnes per hectare.

“Hybrid seeds here mean that it is a seed gotten from two pairs. One could be high-yielding and the other disease-resistant.“Note as well that the gestation period for rice seedlings is about two to three weeks while the time for planting a rice crop to maturity is about six months. So while other states’ rice planters will harvest rice crops two times a year the Cross River seedling factory will be harvesting and selling at least 54 times a year,” he added.

Undoubtedly, the Ben Ayade administration deserves all the accolades for its crystal vision in reinventing Cross River state as not only a tourism destination but as well positioned destination for agricultural revolution. If all goes as planned, Governor Ayade will indeed have set the tone for the multi-dimensional greatness of Cross River as the nation begins to save vital foreign exchange in the needless importation of rice and other food products.

Former Governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke praising Governor Ayade on the visionary project.

Samson Oyedeyi

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