Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives for Nigerians to go into agriculture as a zero oil road map, Cross River governor, Prof Ben Ayade, Wednesday, unveiled his premium quality rice in Calabar. Unveiling the rice before his deputy, Prof Ivara Esu, CBN representative, Dr Umoren Aniefiok, some members of the National and State Assembly, among others, Ayade said: “The choice to go into farming was deliberate and an act of will,” informing that until 2015, the federal government was bleeding an average of 500 billion per anum importing rice,” a situation he reasoned, was not favourable to a country with about 923,000sq kms and 40 percent fertile land for rice. Urging the citizenry to ensure they own farms, the governor said: “If you don’t own a farm then you are not sensitive to the administration of President Buhari that says agriculture is the alternative to the oil road map,” charging: “Do something, you can’t be in government or be an African and you don’t own a farm.”
Aware of the challenges faced by the people as a result of meager salaries, social burden and family pressure, Ayade intimated that his administration created “an economic platform that allows access for funding including the commercial agriculture credit facility, even as the state has set up a microfinance bank to provide financial support for those who wants to go into agriculture.”
According to him, “I realise that having a nucleus farm that I do have, cannot sustain the amount of rice that I intend to turn over in a year, Ayade Farms that produces Ayade rice will also be ready from my facility to buy off from everybody who is a rice farmer, mill it and add up to Ayade Farm value chain.” The governor while announcing the price for the product, explained that he was not targeting money but how to recover the loan so obtained hence, “the market price for a 50kg will be pegged at N12,000 while the 25kg bag will go for N6,000 in Cross River, in appreciation of the trust and votes you gave to us and the nothingness in your salaries in spite of the expanded government.” Ayade who made a case to stamp out a situation where rice produced in Cross River is milled in another state and christened as rice belonging to that state, enjoined the federal government to assist the citizenry with infrastructure such as water supply, irrigation including the milling and purchase so as to meet up the demands of agriculture.
The governor who also discouraged people from patronising foreign rice as it waa illegal, maintained that it stays longer in the store, it is filled with corrosive chemical, poisonous and carsogenic. He, however, advised the people to instead settle for Ayade rice as, “its cheaper, better, has higher quality and very fresh.”
In their separate goodwill messages, Deputy Governor Ivara Esu, the Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly, John Gaul Lebo, CBN representative, Dr Umoren Aniefiok as well as Hon Muntari Dandutse of the Federal House of Representatives, among others, lauded the governor for setting the pace, creating employment opportunities and saturating the Nigerian market with organic and top quality rice.