·Frowns at technical partner for not boosting farmers to supply paddies
By Ignatius Chukwu
The Niger Delta region may become the new rice hub of Nigeria, so disclosed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The Commission has however frowned at its rice mill project partners for not engaging rice farmers in the region enough.
The NDDC Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr Felix Amorue, revealed plans by the Commission to make the oil region to become a rice region.
The NDDC charged the firm running its multi-million-naira rice mill at Elele-Alimini, in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, the Elephant Group, to encourage local farmers in the Niger Delta to be fully engaged in the production of paddies.
A Press Release issued by the NDDC Director Corporate Affairs, Dr Ibitoye Abosede, said that the NDDC Interim Administrator, Dr. Efiong Akwa, spoke after inspecting the six-tonne-per-hour rice mill and called for a more robust engagement with local rice farmers in the Niger Delta region.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer, who was represented by the Commission’s Director of Agriculture, Dr. Luke Ibanga, stated that the facility which was leased to the Elephant Group in 2017, would create more job opportunities for youths in the Niger Delta region.
Akwa decried the low level of involvement of local rice farmers in the value chain of the rice mill, noting that part of the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, signed by the NDDC and the Elephant Group, required the active participation of rice farmers in the region.
He assured: “We will take up this issue with the management of the Elephant Group to ensure that they engage the local rice farmers in the Niger Delta region as a key part of the MOU the NDDC signed with them.”
Akwa emphasised the need to ensure that in line with the MOU, paddies were sourced from within the region as this would encourage local rice farming and out-grower farmers would be encouraged to provide the necessary rice paddy for the mill.
Akwa commended the operators of the rice mill for the improvements and additions made to the facility since they took over its operations.
He observed: “The rice mill will serve not only the farmers in Rivers State but other rice growers across the region. If all these come together, rice production in the region will increase substantially because the region has a comparative advantage in rice production with several bodies of water and arable land.”
In his own remarks, the NDDC Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr. Felix Amorue, said the objective of the NDDC in setting up the rice mill was to improve on the production of rice in the region, which necessitated the partnership with the Elephant Group.
He stated that the Commission would ensure that the Niger Delta region became the rice belt of the nation.
Responding, the Administration and Station Manager of the Elephant Group, Mr. Olabode Ojo, explained that the Elephant Group was actively exploring opportunities to increase and improve the level of involvement of local rice farmers in the Niger Delta region with the rice mill. “We are discussing with Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States on organising local rice farmers to increase their involvement with the rice mill” he said.