In keeping with the administration’s policy to create value chain for the state’s rice production, Cross River governor, Prof Ben Ayade, has flagged off the construction work on a multi million naira rice mill in Ogoja.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Governor Ayade disclosed that the mill which is the first of its kind in Africa to produce a wholly vitaminized rice will incorporate growth hormones for children between the ages of seven and 15, as well as enhance their intellectual capacity.
“With the vitamins enhanced plant, specific vitamins and nutrients are going to be incorporated, the vitaminization process of this mill is going to be bigger business than actually selling the rice,” Ayade said.
He said in spite of the fact that “the people of Ogoja are traditionally the number one rice growing people in the South-South of Nigeria, all the rice cultivated in Ogoja ends up in other states.”
He added that “Indeed, it is our rice and we have come to put an end from taking our rice from Cross River to somewhere else and adding to the rice cultivation statistics of other state.”
Ayade disclosed that the product which will be called “‘Ogoja Rice’ will be packaged to reflect the identity and unity of the people so that when our products get into the market and you taste it, you will know that it is very fresh.”
Explaining that the rice city in Calabar does not conflict with the mill in Ogoja, Ayade hinted that the Calabar rice city was designed as a research centre for the production of a new hybrid of rice that will have high yield, high disease resistance and targeted at the production of seeds and seedlings.
His words: “The only way we can control the economy completely in a rice value chain is not just to grow rice but to sell seeds, so we need to have a research centre close to the airport because we are hoping to sell seeds to the whole of Africa. But when you produce your seeds, you need to send them to where the heartbeat of rice construction is, which is Ogoja.”
Lauding President Muhammad Buhari for his financial support to ensure that the project succeeds, Ayade stressed that “Buhari has demonstrated that if Nigeria can be focused on rice production, we shall indeed, get out of the woods and our continued dependence on foreign rice will be a thing of the past.”
The governor who assured that the people of Ogoja will lead the fight for increased yield in the production of rice, considering its fertile soil with articulated young and committed people, wondered why the people have continued to wallow in pain and penury with no federal presence.
Urging the people to remain prayerful, united and responsive as better things are coming their way, Ayade added: “We will engage with the federal structure to ensure that more Ogoja people are brought into governance at the federal level.”
Earlier, Commissioner for Agriculture, Prof Anthony Eneji, applauded the governor’s initiative which he pointed out will halt the state’s dependence on outsiders in processing its grains.
“This trend must stop as we will be producing five tons per hour and the gesture will service both northern and central senatorial districts of the state as well as help the state increase its yield,” Eneji said.