A former chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Cross River State, Ntufam John Okon has hailed the state governor, Prof Ben Ayade for putting the state on the world map for its pioneering role in the massive investments in the rice production chain.
He said in an interview that Ayade's invention and interest in agriculture was already yielding results that would boost the revenue base of the state.
“We thank God for making Governor Ayade fulfil his mission of decupling from over dependent on Federal Allocation to run the state. The payment of three billion naira for the rice seedlings by the CBN is a sign that the industrialisation programme of the governor is coming to fruition.
“I believe His Excellency will use the mandate of his second term to consolidate his drive for buoyant economy. Apart from the Rice seedlings factory there are also the Cocoa processing mill in Ikom, Rice processing mill in Ogoja,” he stated.
Ayade's rice revolution initiative begun yielding quantum fruits with the supply of seedlings to Bayelsa and Delta States. Other states within the South South region are next in line in the supply chain from the automated rice seeds and seedlings factory commissioned in June last year by President Mohammadu Buhari.
The supply forms part of the first batch of production worth N3 billion, of a N10.8 billion order for the southern states under the auspices of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) with the support of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Speaking to newsmen at the Ayade Industrial park in Calabar, Cross River governor, Ayade had said that "the state will also provide all the seedlings support services for the southern part of Nigeria, gradually migrating into a technology-based rice farming where we move from the cultivation of seeds to seedlings. When you start with the seedlings, it gives you pleasure because you are already dealing with the seeds that have already germinated and are set to go into the soil and grow very fast."
“As we do this harvest, we are conscious that harvest has to be done in the evening because that is when there is minimal destruction in terms of atmospheric temperature that affects the seedlings."
Other support services offered by the the seedling factory according to Ayade, "are mechanisation support and planting services, so indeed what is happening is that Nigeria is gradually migrating from the primitive, rural and African method of rice farming to a civilised modern technology driven farming as your yield will go up, your size of land will be less with maximum yield and your per hectare will move from two tons to ten tons per hectare."
Ayade who personally joined in loading the consignment into the trucks said "overtime, Cross River will lead us into a situation where Nigeria will be the next exporter of rice because Bayelsa and Delta are fully ready to receive our seedlings and I am sure that in no distant time, Rivers, Edo and other states in the Niger Delta will follow.
"The payment for the supply is not done by individual farmer or state, but coordinated under the RIFAN- CBN program, so that is the way to handle it. Before we make a supply to a state, we receive an order from RIFAN, go to that state, do a valuation of the preparedness of the people and farmers to receive the seedlings, we then have a list of all the potential recipients farmers and on the basis of that, we compute that into our system and know the quantity that will be loaded to a particular state," the governor intimated.
The governor said "my joy is that the seedlings factory is now a reality. Cross River has a huge challenge of almost converting every single soil that is arable into rice farming because the demand is huge. I am also happy that Nigeria has a great opportunity to see us do the commercial harvesting and now going into full planting to support Bayelsa and others do their rice value chain."