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‘We are building formidable economy with rice, cocoa production, processing’

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Olam rice mill, Rukubi, Nasarawa State PHOTO: FEMI IBIROGBA

Determined to break away from over-dependence on federal revenue allocations, Cross River State government is embarking on mega agriculture programmes to produce cocoa, rice and poultry with the state-of-the-art processing mills

The state government also motivates farmers with incentives, especially from the anchor borrowers’ programme, to intensify cocoa, rice and poultry production to take advantage of the mills being put in place by the state government.

Already, the state boasts of a large number of cocoa plantations and rice farms spread all over the central and northern parts of the state.

The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Professor Anthony Eneji, while taking some journalists round some of the processing mills, said: “The cocoa factory is ongoing with installation of equipment. As you can see, a lot of work has been done here and these are high quality equipment all the way from Switzerland and we are hoping that before the first quarter of next year, this plant should be up and running.

“So far, we are very satisfied with the state of work, the access roads are being constructed, simultaneously the fences are finished, and landscaping is beginning and you can see the level of work going on there and the warehouse is being built quickly. So, I can go back with confidence that a lot of work has been done and we look forward to meeting our target of commissioning this processing plant for cocoa industry.

“I think between the first quarters of 2019, it will be commissioned. Looking at it, 70% have been completed and if you way in the equipment you know that we have gone a long way. The remaining part of the job is just final finishing. So, I can say with confidence that in the first quarter of next year, the job will finish.”
 
He disclosed that the state would educate farmers on the handling of cocoa from the seedling point to processing, saying, fermentation is very important for high quality cocoa beans and for the sustainability of the processing plant.
 
On rice, he said, through the anchor borrowers’ programme and a special initiative of the Rice Farmers Association, efforts to make paddies available for the mills were building up, and 50,000 hectares of rice would be cultivated, which, he said, would be more than enough to feed the rice plant.

  
“The economic benefits cannot be quantified. You know our people are predominantly rice farmers, and we are farmers. Before now, our rice is taken to Abakeliki and they brand it Abakeliki rice, just as we have cocoa branded by Ondo.

“So, with these project, all that will stop and the multiply effect of having our own rice mills within our own locality cannot be quantified.
 
“I think it is going to be more competitive than other rice in the market and accessible in quality and all consideration, it is going to be the best,” he said.
 
To ensure quality rice seedlings to the farmers, the commissioner said the state also has the Rice City in Calabar, which focuses more on seedling production aspect of rice to support farmers with the best seedlings.

“We produce the hybrid seeds and seedlings there, which they can move to the feed to cultivate. We commissioned the seedlings in June last year. That is why we have acquired another 500 hectares somewhere in Adim to produce hybrid seeds which we hope to supply not only to our farmers but farmers in the South-South zone,” he disclosed.
 
“To those who are engaged in rice farming, this is their lifeline because the economy will improve from their own angle and we will be able to boost local production of rice and processing.”

 
Equally commenting on the cocoa factory, the Managing Director of the cocoa factory and the rice mill, Mr Chris Agara, said, “What we have here is a three-face facility project, the first face is cleaning and drying the cocoa for export, which is giving a lot of value and the second phase is processing the beans to liquor and the third phase is processing the liquor to powder.

The powder is what we use for chocolate and cocoa-related products. Like the commissioner said, we are actually beyond 70%, actually we are about 90%. The reason is because the entire equipment that is required for installation is 100% here.
 
“We had an agreement with Bowa, a Swiss company, to get this equipment installed between now and before the end of December because they also have to go back to their country so we are convinced that before the end of December, the installation will be completed and we will also test-run before they leave.”
  
On poultry, the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade, said, “We have just taken delivery of four containers load of equipment for our frozen chicken processing factory, Cala-Chicka. We have 40 more containers we are expecting for the entire poultry value chain in the state on the way.
 
“By implication, we also have the equipment for the automated chicken slaughter house and processing and packaging of frozen chickens. 

“We are taking advantage of protein deficiency in Africa and to venture into frozen chicken. In the fullness of time, the world will see that Cross River State is in the right direction and our dream is manifesting and they will begin to appreciate our effort as our wealth creation and economy diversification drive is beginning to yield positive results.”


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