Rice is an edible starchy cereal grain. Cultivated rice is known botanically as Oryza sativa. Rice is the agricultural commodity with the third highest worldwide production. The world’s largest rice producers by far are China and India.
Rice is the world’s most important food crop and dietary staple, ahead of wheat and corn. It is the chief source of food for about 3 billion people, half of the world’s population, and accounts for 20 percent of all the calories that mankind consumes.
Over 520 million tons of rice is harvested every year and about one tenth of all cultivated acreage in the world is devoted to rice. More than ninety percent of rice produced are eaten by humans.
Nigeria is the largest producer of rice in West Africa and the third in Africa after Egypt and Madagascar producing about 3 million metric tons on the average annually. The country falls short of meeting its local demand which is placed at about 6 million tons.
Recently, efforts have been made to improve local production which have led to increase in demand for rice seeds and seedlings in the country. If Nigeria is thus to reach self sufficiency in rice production, there is need for not just mechanization in rice farming but also in seeds and seedlings production.
This gives verve to Governor Ben Ayade’s vision of setting up a rice seeds and seedlings factory in Cross River State. The Rice seeds and seedlings factory is a revolutionary investment located in the Ayade Industrial Park in Calabar, the state’s capital.
The factory is equipped with world class machinery and facility that tests, modifies, processes, and produces quality seeds and seedlings for rice production in Nigeria and other African countries.
The rice seeds and seedlings plant is conceived to produce high quality seeds and seedlings of stress tolerant and disease resistant rice varieties for cultivation in Cross River State and beyond.
The seeds and seedlings produced by the factory are also nutrient rich and have improved yield thus have health and economic importance.
The process for the production of the seeds and seedlings begins with the receipt of the seeds at the factory. The seeds are cleaned, dried and taken to the research facility where they are optimized to produce the new improved Calas 77 which is the Cross River State variety.
This is either stored away in the special facility which is maintained at about 4 degrees for export or sent through the seedling production process.
The seedling production process begins with the mix of compost manure with pre tested soil from the soil reaearch section. The mixture is then run on a conveyor belt, filtered to remove lumps and filled into perforated plastic trays. The seeds are added with more soil compost mixture added to cover them along with water while still running on the automated conveyor belt.
Finally, the trays are stacked and taken off the conveyor belt to the nursery. The nursery covers a total land space of more than twenty football fields and has automated tray conveyor and irrigation system that ensures the seedlings germinate effectively.
The seedling which are grown on the perforated plastic trays, at the time of transplanting, are placed directly on the transplanter. The transplanter which uses a hook-like device to pluck the seedlings from the trays, plant them in the ground.
The rice seeds and seedlings factory is also equipped with machinery for mechanized farming including tractor, the earth compost mixer, plough, planter, harvester, thresher etc. The intention is to provide tools for mechanized and modern farming and make it more attractive to young men and women and many other interested citizens.
The Cross River State Rice Seeds and Seedlings plant is one of the largest and most sophisticated in the world as Governor Ayade had through his various trips overseas, sourced the components of the factory from three countries India, China and Thailand.
The governor who is very clear about the vision explained that the seeds produced from the factory which will be for export will be stored at reduced temperature in the refrigating unit and the seedlings which are ready for planting in about 15 days are for closer destinations within the state and country.
The rice seeds and seedlings factory and indeed the entire Ayade Industrial Boulevard is powered by green energy in the form of solar energy and provides uninterrupted power supply for all investors in the park.
The governor is thus inviting investors to sieze the opportunity to take up space in the industrial park and commercial farmers to take advantage of the mechanized seeds and seedlings production factory to attain a new level in their businesses.
Indeed, a revolution has come in rice production in Nigeria and Cross River State is the home of that revolution. Nigeria and indeed Africa must seize this opportunity. Thank you Governor Ayade for your vision and passion.
Emmanuel Etim is SSA to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State on Creative and Knowledge Economy
NOTE:Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Emmanuel Etim, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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