The governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade has inspected the construction of cocoa processing plant in Ikom and promised to make available 100, 000 hectares of land as well as provide cocoa microfinance bank in to provide direct funding for every young man or woman who chooses to go into cocoa farming.
Speaking during a project evaluation tour of the ultramodern cocoa processing factory, the governor assured that the government would focus on exploring the entire value chain for cocoa in order to diversify the economy of the state from its dependence on federal allocation.
“The factory remains an architecture that is driven by a high level of intellectualism; all the equipment needed for the cocoa factory have been paid for.
“At this critical point when oil is almost becoming a thing of the past, Cross River State must construct a direction for the federal government to follow. We understand the ideological focus of this government to ensure that there is a shift from the continuous dependence on oil to the agricultural sector. So, by the time we are done, we will explore the entire value chain for cocoa and help produce all the end products out of Ikom, making the place the right city to belong,” Ayade said.
He therefore enjoined the citizens to take advantage of the over two million hectares of arable land for cocoa farming and become millionaires, pointing out that “for every success to be successfully successful, the source of your successful success must be successfully secured and that starts today.”
In his response, the national president, Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Sayina Riman, described the project as “wonderful” and “monumental” saying it would showcase the state’s position in the first international cocoa summit as the leading state in terms of packaging, production and moving forward.
“In 2017, we are seeing a transformation that has never before in South- South, Southeast of the Niger. This is the first ever cocoa producing factory in this country and this will not only complement employment but will add value to what we have,” he said.
Also speaking, the executive director, Nexim Bank, Hon. Stella Okotete, pledged the bank’s commitment to making the project come on stream.
“We are here as financial advisors to ensure that the project comes to fruition and the farmers have enough stock to feed the project. We will do our best to ensure that the project is commissioned in due course, support cocoa farmers in Cross River so that the project comes to a successful end.”
Meanwhile, contractor for the project and chief executive officer of AA Agro Industry Universal Services Ltd, Mr. Chris Agara, said when the facility is completed, it will produce about 30,000 metric tonnes of cocoa per year and attract millions of dollars in foreign exchange to the state.
Earlier, the governor had also inspected the ultramodern rice processing plant in Ogoja where he reaffirmed the government’s resolve “to put an end to when our own rice will be transported to other states and be milled and called a different name.”
“We we are in the process of producing our own rice, Ogoja Rice, and that is our heritage,” he stressed.