President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the relevant federal parastatals to partner with the Cross River State government in the multi-billion naira automated Seedlings and Seed Multiplication Factory.
The president who made the call on Tuesday in Calabar during the commissioning of the project in Calabar described it as “people-oriented project” adding that the project, alongside some other agro-based industries built by the government of Governor Ben Ayade, will inspire other leaders to key to the vision of ensuring food security for the country.
“I therefore, enjoin relevant Federal Government Agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its anchor borrower’s programme, to partner with Cross River in the area of supply of seedlings to our farmers.
“With Governor Ayade’s other investments in agriculture such as the ongoing construction of an ultramodern rice mill in Ogoja, the cotton farm in Yala, the cocoa processing plant in Ikom and the banana plantation in Odukpani, the feed mill and yellow maize farm in Obubra as well as the ultramodern poultry farm for export of frozen chicken amongst others, it is clear that Cross River has found a pathway to decouple itself from over reliance on federal allocation.
“It is evident also 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.
“It is therefore, my hope and expectation that other states that are yet to fully take advantage of the zero-oil economic roadmap of the federal government will take a cue from Cross River State.
“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 said.
Buhari also remarked that the project was in line with his (Buhari’s) administration’s zero oil economic roadmap with Ayade becoming a reference point in the vision.
“When we assumed the rein of leadership of our dear country, our 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.
“I am happy that Ayade keyed into that policy and has today become the reference point in our agricultural revolution effort,” he said.
The president, who lauded Ayade for the giant stride and for keying to his (Buhari’s) agricultural policy, further noted that the factory “speaks loudly about the state government’s strides in agriculture” adding that “its capacity to produce high yield and disease resistant seeds, will aid in job creation and earn revenue for the state.”
On the impact of the seedlings factory on the economy, the president said: “Seedlings from this factory will improve rice yield from the current national average of three to four tons per hectare to about nine to 10 tons per hectare, thus helping to ensure rice sufficiency in the country and doing away with import and saving foreign exchange for Nigeria.
“Besides creating employment opportunities for the unemployed, I have no doubt that this rice factory will also be a veritable platform for income generation for Cross River.
“I am further 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,” he said.
In his address, Ayade said the state was aware of the president’s focus which inspired the decision to invest in agro-allied industries including cocoa processing industry, banana plantation, soya bean, calapharm, instant noodles, rice mill, among others.
“These are all products of your discussion with me each time I have to meet with you and therefore, everything Cross River gives me and the entire people of Cross River credit.
“We have five million hectares of paddy soil in Nigeria; unfortunately, less than 1.7 million hectares of that used to be cultivated. But when President Buhari came in with his aggressive programme on rice, the amount of cultivable land has grown to three million hectares and it is rising,” said the governor.
Ayade also said Nigeria used to spend aboutN460 billion importing rice and an additional N60 billion in December, the figure he said “has come down dramatically and saved the pressure on the naira, courtesy of your innovative thinking.”
“It was against this background that we realised that we needed to do something very specific on rice cultivation,” he added.
Commenting on the seedling factory, Ayade said the old way of preserving rice seeds “is outdated and counterproductive” as the yield was always low, hence the need to go scientific in seed multiplication and preservation.
“We needed to change and bring agriculture into a digital age. It is against that background that Cross River State under my watch…we focused on automated rice seed and seedling factory. We are just not stopping at providing seeds and seedlings; we have gone further to also set up the first vitaminised rice plant,” he added.
On the challenges of financing the projects, Ayade said: “There is a new concept which is not just doing business with other people’s money; the new concept in Cross River now is called intellectual money. It is that intellectual money we have adopted to bring all these to reality.”