The ferocity of the sun rays this mid March afternoon was at a baking point. But even in the blazing sun, there was this disarming normality in the manner he methodically inspected progress of work at the project site.
Occasionally, as if the hot sun itself was a soothing balm, he let out a broad smile, one hand up pointing at a something that caught his attention.
Soon, there was a crowd of heads- his, those of some of his aides and Chinese and Spanish expatriates working on the site-poring over a piece of paper, probably a design. And at that moment, one could notice him nodding in affirmation of whatever it was that was explained to him, his cherubic face flushing with a glint of inward satisfaction.
The above was Cross River River state governor, Professor Ben Ayade during a recent project tour of a massive Poultry farm under construction.
The farm is Located along the Calabar/Odukpani Road in Odukpani Local Government Area. The poultry and livestock farm is conceived to be the biggest of its kind in Nigeria.
Governor Ayade says the poultry and livestock farm is in line with his commitment to broadening the frontiers of The state's economy. The poultry prjoject is one of the numerous Agricultural investments of the administration.
"We are tired of chasing petro-dollars. Our target now is Agric-Dollars, we want to produce Agricprenures in the poultry industry who will be exporting chickens from here...I am not going to be the exporter. Cross River State can't even run all of these. I am just a dreamer, manifesting the dreams", he says.
Indeed, in Cross River, poultry farming is taking elegant, monumental dimension.The poultry and livestock farm at Odukpani, a sleepy outskirt of Calabar, the state capital, promises to be one of the largest and biggest mechanized poultry farms in Africa producing thousands of eggs and birds hourly for local consumption as well as feed the frozen chicken factory, Calachika being built by the Ayade-led administration in Calabar.
On completion, the factory will have the capacity to produce 6000 chickens per hour.
By the time the Cross River Poultry Farm/ LiveStock Company Ltd which is primed to have six broiler houses each with 22,000 birds, becomes operational, it would clearly and firmly establish Nigeria, ahead of three other African countries, as the number one poultry production country in Africa.
Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria are four top countries in Africa best for Poultry investment. With an estimated population of about 200 million, research shows that Nigeria's poulty consumption is already in the double digit, but a far cry from the 40kg annual consumption most countries have attained.
The Cross River Poultry Farm/Livestock comes with a hatchery that will produce day old chicks for distribution round the country, particularly the South south region which lacks a large scale commercial poultry farm.
"All the small poultry farmers in Cross River State and its environ can now start buying their day old chicks from our facility instead of going far west as the case is currently”, Ayade said.
The three major downstream benefits the poultry farm will create are: Eggs in abundance, day old chicks and frozen chicken.
"Indeed, you have three major downstream benefits from this business; eggs in abundance, day old chicks and frozen chickens and that is what we are doing to industrialize the state" the Cross River state governor further stated.
"We have six broiler houses, layers and of course the hatchery. So, we would be producing 22 thousand birds per broiler house with massive production of eggs. My ambition is to commission it in 2019 as part of my second term project.”, the governor enthuses.
The downstream buy-in has been secured as ancillary players in the poultry industry-feed mill suppliers, soybeans and yellow maize suppliers, day old chicks and Egg distributors among others are already feverishly waiting for the Poultry facility to commence operation.
The economic frontiers of Cross River, according to Professor Ayade has further been expanded with the coming of the Poultry and Livestock farm as it will encourage more people to go into farming and create more jobs to activate the "food on the table, hands on the plough" policy of his second term.
“In my first term, I did food on the table, expanding government just to put food on the table but in the second term, it is going to be food on the table, hands on the plough.”
The multi billion Naira Calachika Chicken processing plant at the Calabar industrial Park,five minutes drive from Odukpani, will be dependent on the Poultry Farm to feed it with birds when completed.
“We also have a slaughter house at the Ayade Industrial park where we are going to slaughter six thousand birds per hour for export.
“That is why it is located close to the Bakassi Deep seaport. So, as we produce, we blast fridge and then take them to the cool room before exporting them as fresh chickens from natural yellow maize and soya beans.”
Ayade assures that the plant which has an installed capacity to process over six thousand birds per hour will also be needing supplies from private poultry farmers in the state. This is to ensure that the local farmers also remain in business and make money too.