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May 2024

Cross River State’s bold move to unlock Rice farming

In a groundbreaking move on Sunday, Governor Bassey Otu of Cross River State officially inaugurated a massive 50,000-hectare rice farm in Ndok, situated within the Ogoja Local Government Area (LGA). Supported by an innovative credit scheme, the State Government is injecting N150 million monthly into agricultural development initiatives. This signals a focused commitment to transform the State’s agricultural sector from the ground up.

With a vision for direct impact to farmers’ lives, the Governor emphasized the intent to revolutionize agriculture, starting with short-term food crops like rice and cassava. He elucidated the audacious agricultural ambitions and plans already in motion for the development of oil palm and rubber plantations. He promised a diverse and sustainable agricultural landscape for the future. He stated the Government’s ongoing deliberations with farmers’ groups.

Mr Otu encouraged individuals to seize the opportunity to engage in agricultural production. He outlined the Government’s willingness to provide essential resources, such as credit-guarantee schemes. This will facilitate access to finance for dedicated small holder farmers.

Commissioner for Agriculture and Irrigation, Johnson Ebokpo, shed light on the Government’s efforts to enhance agricultural mechanization. Newly acquired tractors are set for distribution to the LGAs. Managed by farmers’ cooperatives, this initiative aims to empower youths while supporting small-holder farmers in scaling up their operations. This will foster a culture of self-sufficiency and prosperity within communities.

Emmanuel Anoh, Chairman of the Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN) in Cross River, projected a minimum yield of 6 tons of rice per hectare of land. Mr Anoh expressed confidence in the positive outcome of the initiative. The Chairman commended the Cross River State Government for their bold and forward-thinking approach to agriculture.

What is Noteworthy About This Initiative?

The sheer size of the land made available is mind blowing. This is contiguous land. A single expanse of land clustered in the same place. A necessity for meaningful, commercial agricultural production. For the large States in the North, it might not mean too much. But for a mid-sized, coastal State to cede that quantity out of 20,156 square kilometers is laudable. Ogoja LGA itself is just about 909 square kilometers. 50,000 hectares to indigenous small holder farmers. Not one of our blue chip or commercial agricultural companies. Not a foreign one coming with the much needed direct investment capital. Not even a player in the hospitality and tourism industry. Wow!

That brings me to my next point. For most of us, when we hear “Cross River State”, we immediately think of rest and relaxation. What may come to mind is the Calabar Carnival, Obudu Mountain Resort and Tinapa. There are a dozen other places I won’t mention, so as not to make you think of an early vacation. After all May only began. Go ahead and make your plans. In the meantime, get the gist from your “Cross Riverian” friends or people who’ve visited. Or you could pacify yourself with well-made afang or edikang ikong soup every chance you get. That always works, trust me!

Newsflash guys! If you didn’t know it already, the State is not new to agriculture. Like any other Nigerian State that has been doing it for centuries. Cross River State is our country’s 2nd largest producer of cocoa. Understand that we generated over N100 billion from cocoa alone in Q4 2023 (Nigerian Bureau of Statistics). Cocoa is our 6th highest revenue earner. That should put the State’s agricultural role in better perspective for you. And we all know that our cocoa industry is under performing. The State Government launched an initiative for cocoa farmers late last year, which should impact our overall production. Their intent seems clear enough.

The State produces other cash crops like cashew, oil palm and rubber. On a subsistence level the people have grown cassava, cocoyam, groundnut, maize, plantain, rice and sugar cane all through their history. Fruits like bananas, oranges, mangoes and pineapples abound.  Fishing and palm wine tapping activities are not left out. Maybe now you understand why it’s called “The People’s Paradise”.

It seems the Government is supporting the scale up of production in areas they have a competitive advantage. “It’s the obvious thing to do” did I hear you say? Yes, but they are taking calculated, consistent steps. That’s the exciting thing about it all. They are demonstrating a commitment to agricultural development. This support enhances the viability of farming and promotes sustainable agricultural practices.

Why Should You and I Care?

Reasons abound why we should care about this project. I will suppress my patriotic zeal and highlight the main one. I’m not an indigene although a full blooded Nigerian. Born and bred. Pro-Naija all the way!

There are so many commendations to bestow on the State Government if you ask me. But it’s not about that. We live in a world where food security is paramount. In 2022 according to the United Nations, between 691 million and 783 million people were hungry. Globally, 2.4 billion people, or 29.6% of the population, did not have regular access to food. Of those, an estimated 900 million faced severe food insecurity. Use whatever methods you will to extrapolate the figures for Nigeria. I guarantee it will not look good. Cross River State’s ambitious rice farming initiative stands as a beacon of hope. It will help pave the way for a more sustainable future. In the short-, medium- and long-term.

Let’s do some quick math to bring this home. The RIFAN Chairman predicts a yield of 6 tons per hectare on this project. That’s a total production of 300,000 tons. If we use a conservative milling ratio of 60%, that will translate to 180,000 tons of processed rice. The global estimate for annual rice consumption by an adult is 70 kilograms .Ours will be significantly higher since it’s a national staple. So assuming a strict rice diet, this initiative can potentially feed over 2.5 million adults annually. The number will go up if we assume their access to other foods. QR Code

Published Date: May 2, 2024

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