Presidential initiative On Agriculture as alternative source of revenue to drive growth and development in the non-oil sector has received a buy in from some states in the country, with Cross River taking the lead as recently witnessed at the commissioning of the Calabar Rice City by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Over and above sentiments, the Head of Civil Service of the federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita could not hide her excitement to the fact that her home state is leading in the agricultural revolution, driven by the present administration.
Mr. President was in Calabar, the Cross River State capital recently to inaugurate the first and largest rice farm in the West African sub-region, declaring the state as the most determined to support the federal government policy trust on agriculture.
The inauguration of the rice seeds and seedling factory built by the Cross River State government marked the beginning of increased food and agricultural production that will effectively translate into increase in revenue and food supply for residents and other states in the country.
President Buhari described the factory as a reference point in Nigeria’s effort to kick-start a revolution in agriculture, which according to him is a major policy thrust of the present administration, to divert attention from oil revenue as a veritable means of funding the national budget.
“When we got into power, 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.
“Indeed, this factory speaks loudly about the giant strides we are making in agriculture as a country,” said an obviously elated Buhari.
The president said he hoped that the factory would help improve rice production in Nigeria from three to four tones per hectare to about nine tones per hectare, and thereby help the country to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
“It is evident that by conceiving projects such as this, 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,” Buhari said.
The president directed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its Anchor Borrowers programme, to partner with the Cross River State government for the supply of rice seedlings to farmers across the nation.
Mr Ayade, in his remarks at the inauguration ceremony, 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.
The governor asked the people of Cross River to give to Buhari, whatever credit they would have given to him as their governor.
Ayade said that the State Rice City Project is expected to generate at least N70 billion yearly with full federal government patronage.
Mr Ayade made the forecast during a test run of the project at the Ayade Industrial Park, Calabar, Where he posited that the state is disadvantaged in oil revenue because of the loss of oil wells in the past, so there can be no better time than now to look away from oil and promote the development of agriculture not only in the state but in Nigeria as a whole.
The governor said that the project will be certified ready for commercial activities soon, while calling on other states and the federal government to patronise Cross River by purchasing made in Cross River rice and improved seedlings.
“When I told Cross Riverians that my ambition was to restructure the state from over dependence on federal allocation, I truly meant it because with projects like this; we are going to generate more revenue for the state.
“Between now and the next four weeks, this project will be ready for commercial production because the seedlings are natural with no chemical added.
“We are partnering with the CBN through the Rice Anchor Borrowers Programme in ensuring that most of the seedlings are acquired from here.
“I am happy that Cross River is on the path of independence even after we lost our oil wells unjustifiably. We now have an investment that needs federal government patronage.
“If we are to have the federal government patronage in full, we are looking at a yearly turnover of 70 to 100 billion naira.
“The federal government should focus on the procurement of rice seedlings from Cross River. We should do between 40-60 per cent of the market sale because we will have no competitor,’’ he said.
Governor Ayade explained that everything about the project is local with no foreign input, adding that the factory can produce for 24 hours per day.
He further said that the project is also going to accommodate over 500 workers, thereby urging Cross Riverians to take full advantage of the project.
The governor said the rice seedlings that would be produced from the factory would be called “Calas 77 because it will be very natural and totally organic.
“This is the biggest rice seedling factory in Africa with a perfect automated irrigation method. Some state governors have indicated interest to place demands,” he said.
It was on this foundation therefore, that the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita congratulated Mr. President and Governor Ben Ayade for their doggedness and political will to develop the agricultural sector to ensure food sufficiency and diversity in revenue base.
– Isa, wrote in from Abuja
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