By Ovasa Ogaga,
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday commissioned the state’s Rice Seedling Factory in Calabar, Cross River state, two years after he performed the ground-breaking for the 274-kilometre superhighway in the State.
Buhari described the factory built by Governor Ben Ayade as “another visionary and trail-blazing project’’.
He said that his first visit to the state two years and eight months ago was historic because it was his first official visit to any state after assuming office as President and secondly, the purpose was to the ground-breaking of the landmark project.
“Today, I am here again in the state to commission yet another visionary and trail-blazing project, the Calabar Rice Seedling Factory built by the state government.
“I must say that visiting the state for the second time within three years in connection with people-oriented and flagship projects of Governor Ayade is very welcome and very satisfying to me.’’
He said his administration launched a zero-oil economic roadmap as a way of making Nigeria less dependent on oil, while encouraging investments in other sectors of the economy, particularly agriculture.
President Buhari expressed his happiness Ayade keyed into the policy and has become one of the reference points in the country’s agricultural revolution effort.
“Our gathering here today is no doubt a determination woven through to precision and a glowing testament to the fact that the policy is working.
“Indeed, this factory speaks loudly about the giant strides we are making in agriculture as a country. This monumental project for which we are gathered here today is a marvel to behold.
“The factory, which is said to be the first in Africa, is an automated plant with a capacity to produce high yielding vitaminized and disease resistance rice seedlings.
“What we expect is that Seedlings from this factory will improve rice yield from the current national average of 3 to 4 tons per hectare to about 9 to 10 tons per hectare, thus helping to ensure rice sufficiency in the country and doing away with imports and saving foreign exchange for Nigeria.’’
The factory, he explained was also targeted at creating employment opportunities and would also be a veritable platform for income generation for the people of Cross River State.
He enjoined relevant federal government agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through their Anchor Borrower’s Programme, to partner with Cross River in the area of supply of seedlings to farmers.
President Buhari acknowledged Governor Ayade’s other investments in agriculture such as the ongoing construction of an Ultra-modern 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 Ultra-modern Poultry Farm for export of frozen chicken.
He concluded therefore that it was clear that Cross River has found a pathway to ease itself from over reliance on federal allocation.
“It is evident also that by conceiving projects such as these, 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.’’
He said Nigeria was making steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production.
It was the expectation that other states that were yet to fully take advantage of the zero-oil economic roadmap of the Federal Government would take a cue from Cross River State.