Akwa Ibom State has recorded a major stride in its food sufficiency drive with the production of 160,000 metric tons of long grain rice for local and international consumption.
Tagged Family Rice, the rice was presented to Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the state governor during the State Executive Council meeting at the council chambers, Government House, Uyo.
Emmanuel said the feat was in line with the state government’s target of crashing the price of staple food in the market, saying in no distant time at least 80 per cent of food consumed in Akwa Ibom would be produced from the state.
He lauded the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency and theTechnical Committee on Food Sufficiency for getting set to crash the price of rice just as it has attained impressive reduction of the price of garri in the market, stressing that the state is blessed with suitable climate to utilise and meet the demand of consumers.
The Governor stated, “This is not a drawing board. This is not a concept, it is something that is done and tested. This is grown, processed and bagged in Akwa Ibom state,” hoping that on July 11, the rice mill would be inaugurated.
Professor Edet Udoh, the Chairman, Technical Committee on Food Sufficiency, said the state government signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on July 16, 2016 to partner Agricon Company while the project commenced production in May 2017.
Udoh, who explained that from time of planting to harvesting, the long grain rice takes about 120 days to mature, noted that a turnover of 160,000 metric tons was realised against the initial target of 176,000 metric tons, attributing the shortfall to heavy rainfall.
He said that 10,000 bags of 50kg were on ground to hit the market soon, assuring that with increase in yield at the nearest future, the state government would realise its target of crashing the price of rice in the market.
Dr. Uduak Udo-Inyang, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, who presented several bags of the rice at the Exco meeting, said the rice factory commenced production on a 600-hectare farmland in Ini local government area last year, expressing hope of replicating it in Uruan and Okobo local government areas.
Dr. Udo-Inyang explained that the initiative was a Public-Private Partnership, PPP, between the State Government and Agricon, and the name- Ibom Agricon Rice Factory- was derived from the merger, adding that further information about the Mill would be provided during inauguration.
Assuring on the quality of the rice, the commissioner said, “We are giving rice that can compete internationally but our target is to make sure that we feed our people first and foremost before we think of exporting.”
In an interview with journalists, Charles Udoh, the state Commissioner of Information and Strategy, said the meeting was basically to review performance of the administration in all sectors within the last three years, maintaining that the evaluation was necessary to note the achievements and gaps while deliberating on ways for improvement.
Udoh said, “Today was a recap. In every establishment, in every management process, when you take a step forward, you need to also look back to see what you have done well and what you need to do better to ensure that the people maximally receive the benefits of democracy.”
He recalled that the scorecard of the present administration in the last three years, was published and presented during the third anniversary celebration, acknowledging that the report has attracted commendations on the achievements recorded by the administration despite challenges of recession.
On his part, Dr. Nse Essien, the Commissioner of Science and Technology, said his Ministry in partnership with International Business Machine, IBM, was set to offer Information and Communications Technology, ICT, training to 10,000 indigenes of the state, mentioning that participation is open to every Akwa Ibom person irrespective of background.
Dr. Essien noted that the Akwa Ibom Oil and Gas Training Centre, which was inaugurated recently, was established to cater for the development of capacity in the oil and gas sector to ensure maximal benefits from the abundant natural resources in the state, assuring that discussions are ongoing with investors for the development of Ibom Science Park.