By Violet Fanseh
The rice value chain in Nigeria will soon be boosted with the completion and inauguration of a city built by the Cross River State government with a focus on improving its yield said Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade Friday in Calabar, the state’s capital in an inspection tour with journalists.
The agro city tagged; The Calabar Rice Seedlings and Seed Manufacturing center is a multi billion Naira seedling reproduction facility complete with storage as well as research and development compartments among others.
And, Mr. Ayade explained that the project popularly referred to as rice city will specialise on developing the local variety of any region to improve yield.
“Our specialty is to take seeds from the home base and improve its yield, improve its disease resistance and then develop a new specie that can do much better than the native one. So, 24 hours you are in the cycle of seed production and seedling production,” Ayade said.
Using Kebbi state as an example, Mr. Ayade stated that: “The seeds that come from the farm when you harvest let me say I want to produce seeds from Kebbi State. So I go to Kebbi, take their seeds, take all the seeds from their farm which means those seeds I have gotten under loamy soils and conditions, I put them here because this is a seed factory.
“It is from here (pointing at a compartment aimed at getting the seeds prepared) we take to the lab over there.
“At the top level (of the lab) is the tissue culture where you will do gene amplification and proper tissue culture.”
After culturing, the governor explained that several other processes will follow that will lead to the planting “in a natural science soil and generates more seeds and take it and multiply more seeds and take it through the stages again.”
He then disclosed that the specie to be developed by the state will be known as ‘Cala 77’ – a name which CrossRiverWatch’s marketing editor says it is “a good name for branding as well as marketing given its ease of pronunciation and sports-like style.”
It is expected that the new variety will improve and add value to the different rice programs initiated by government including the rice anchor borrowers program.
Nigeria is said to spend about NGN400 billion in the importation of rice, a staple food for about 80 percent of the world’s population, annually and, Mr. Ayade has a marketing strategy that aims to maximise revenue for the facility.
He averred that: “The states that are close to us, we will prefer to sell them seedlings, not seeds, because the seedlings that have already grown will stay for 15 to 18 days just ready for transplant.
“But, if from outside the country for example we will rather sell you seeds. So when we are given you, we will take it on a chiller so that you are travelling a long distance before the seeds undergo germination. By the time they get to your place, you put it in the soil before they start germinating.”
Also, the governor dismissed insinuations that the facility was politically motivated but said that his decision to also expand government was a short term goal while his industrialisation drive was medium and long term.
He posited that: “Any government that understands the importance of a developing economy, will know that job creation is the first thing and so focusing on industrialisation is the ultimate.
“The absolute byproduct is the job creation initiative. So because I knew that the industries will start once I get into office, I needed to expand government immediately.”
CrossRiverWatch‘s Jonathan Ugbal contributed to this report.
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