The Cross River State government is to spend N 1 billion on the banana plantations in Odukpani and its extension to Boki where 5,000 hectares of land has already been acquired.
This was disclosed by the state commissioner for agriculture and natural resources, Prof. Anthony Eneji, while chatting with journalists in his office in Calabar.
He said the state government was paying serious attention to the banana project, which he said was entirely innovative because in the next four months when harvesting begins, it would be a source of foreign exchange earner for the state.
He said the banana to be harvested from there was a foreign specie adding that it is the type consumed in Europe and when it is available in Cross River, countries in Europe would prefer to import from here at a cheaper cost than from South America where they currently import the commodity.
Eneji also disclosed that 16,000 farmers in the state had been trained under the Central Bank's Anchor Borrower's programme.
He said the production of cassava, rice, cocoa, fish, chickens, maize and others were receiving a boost as the Bank of Industry, World Bank and other financial institutions as well as NDDC, had partnered with the state government to sustain the tempo of agricultural revolution in the state.
He said farmers were being trained to operate in two farming cycles: rainy season and dry season and that the Basin Authority was helping in terms of irrigation during the dry season.
He said the state governor, Ben Ayade placed great emphasis on agriculture as the driver of the state's economy by taking advantage of the vast natural resources in the state in order to free itself from the dependency syndrome.
According to Eneji, the cocoa processing plant in Ikom would process 30,000 metric tons per year, while the rice mill in Ogoja would process 40 metric tons daily, adding that the Rice City project in Calabar would produce high breed rice for farmers to procure.
He said local farmers had shown a great deal of interest in cocoa farming to the extent that the state had received 20,000 applications from farmers who want to farm in the state-owned cocoa plantations.
“We will work closely with World Cocoa Organisation to rehabilitate and expand the existing two cocoa estates in Ikom from the current 3,500 hectares to 10,000 hectares.
“We are also looking around for a serious investor for the Boki Oil Palm estate. The investor will carry out a total overhaul because the trees are old. Wilmer is doing well with the Calaro Oil Palm Estate,” he said.
The commissioner said “all policies of the government revolve around empowering small scale farmers in the state.”
He said the Songhai project brought to the state by a former governor, Liyel Imoke, was not dead or abandoned, adding that “facilities there are used for training farmers the state will empower.”