Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has described Cross River State Governor, Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade as a “reference point in the country’s agricultural revolution.
President Buhari made this assertion when he visited Calabar, the State capital for the commissioning of Africa’s first automated Rice Seed and Seedling Multiplication Factory, established by the Ayade-led administration.
The President, who referred to the Rice City as “a source of employment and a veritable platform for income generation for the State, also pointed out that the project was in conformity with his administration’s zero oil economic roadmap as a way of making the country less dependent on oil, with Cross River State already a leading light in that front.”
“That we are here today is, no doubt, a determination woven through precision and a glowing testament to the fact that our zero-oil policy is working,” the President emphasized.
Buhari further stated that the factory will tremendously improve rice yield from the current national average of 3 – 4 tons per hectare to 9 – 10 tons, thus ensuring rice sufficiency in the country and avoiding importation, thereby saving foreign exchange for Nigeria.
“I am told that the factory has the capacity to meet both foreign and domestic demands. This will go a long way in placing Nigeria on the global rice production map,” President Buhari continued.
The President directed relevant federal agencies like the Ministry of Agriculture and Bank of Nigeria, through its Anchor Borrowers Programme, to partner with Cross River State, as he hopes that the factory, among other agro-based industries being built by the State Government, will inspire other leaders to key into his administration’s vision of food security for the country.
“With Governor Ayade’s other investments in agriculture, such as the ongoing construction of the Ultra-modern Rice Mill in Ogoja, Cotton Farm in Yala, Cocoa Processing Factory in Ikom, Banana Plantation in Odukpani, Poultry and Feed Mill, Yellow Maize Farm in Obubra, among others, are a clear indication that Cross River State has found a pathway from over-reliance on federal allocation.”
“Once again, I commend Governor Ayade for this laudable initiative as our country makes steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production,” he concluded.
In his address, Governor Ayade said his decision to diversify the State’s economy through industrialization and agricultural revolution which has culminated in the construction of the ultra-modern cocoa processing factory, banana plantation, cotton plantation, rice mill, among others, came through the inspiration of President Buhari.
The Governor revealed that Nigeria used to spend about N460 billion importing rice and another N60 billion in December, adding that the President’s innovative thinking towards agriculture has drastically cut down such expenses and saved the pressure on the Naira.
Ayade averred that with the current population statistics, the country faces an enormous challenge of ensuring food security and sufficiency, emphasizing that Cross River has taken a deliberate step to ensure that the rice demand and supply value chain is improved.
On mechanization and modernization of rice production, Governor Ayade quipped that the State has adopted technological ways of improving the rice value chain, against the old and counter-productive methods.
“We need to change and bring agriculture into a digital age and nexus. It is against this background that Cross River State, under my watch and based on your advice, has focused on automated rice seed and seedling factory.”
Governor Ayade sought the support of the President, saying “We have done all we can. We can only pass it on to the father. This is your property, the product of your intellectual acumen.”
The President was accompanied on the visit by Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe and his Transport counterpart, Rotimi Amaechi, the Deputy Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Elder Moses Okon, the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, Service Chiefs, among others.
The event climaxed with Governor Ayade conducting the President and his entourage through the Rice City and other features on the Ayade Industrial Park.