Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross River, on Thursday said Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) had earmarked N10.8 billion for the cultivation of rice seedlings in Cross River.
Ayade disclosed this during the inauguration of the 2019 wet season rice farming and other agricultural value chains by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele in Calabar.
He said that out of the N10.8 billion, N3 billion was a commitment to supply rice seedlings to all the rice farmers in the southern part of Nigeria.
Ayade, who commended the gesture of RIFAN, CBN and the Presidency toward the state, called on all his appointees and government officials in the state to embrace agriculture, adding that “it is the only way to keep the industries in the state functional’’.
“Very soon, we will enter the season of appointments, there are two conditions for this appointment, one, is your polling unit results during the last election and two, is your love for agriculture.
“If you didn’t do well in your polling unit during the last election but have great love for farming, your appointment will still come.
“The only way to industrialise a state is to start an agro industrial revolution, so, I plead with you, if you don’t own a farm; you are doing Cross River a disservice.
“Our policy of putting food on the table will continue but with a small addition this time, which is food on the table, hands on the ploughs,” he said.
The governor added that his plan of constructing a super highway was to connect every local government area of the state with the Bakassi Deep Sea Port for exports.
He said that without exports, the much needed foreign exchange could not come from agriculture.
Emefiele said that the apex bank was very interested in agriculture in Nigeria.
Emefiele, who was represented by the head of the CBN branch in Cross River, Mr Chuks Sokari said when he assumed office in 2014 and 41 items were exempted from the import list and many did not like it but today we were seeing the benefits.’’
He said if Nigeria would be able to feed itself and earn the respect of other nations, it must be through agricultural industrialisation such as carried out in Cross River.
He however urged farmers, who received loans from Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM) and Unity Bank to pay up as they were single digit interest loans to enable other farmers benefit.
The Vice President of RIFAN, Mr Emma Anoh said in the administration of Ayade, “farmers are kings’’.
Anoh said that Cross River was the only state in the federation that had established a rice value chain and currently constructing the largest rice mill in Africa.
He said that the state presently had 40,000 hectares of cultivated rice farms, making it the state with the second largest cultivation of rice in the country.
He however expressed the hope that the next governor after Ayade would be able to step into his shoes.