By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
A consortium of Indian firms under the aegis of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Agriculture and Mines (ASSOCHAM) has expressed its readiness to invest well over USD100 million in sectors of the Cross River State economy.
This is even as site clearing has commenced at the multimillion feed mill and soybean processing plant in Ochon, Obubra local government area of central Cross River State.
The firms while addressing journalists shortly after inspecting projects executed by Governor Ben Ayade in Calabar expressed optimism that their partnership with the state government will create more jobs for the teeming youth as well as check restiveness.
Rahul Mehndiratta, a representative of Avaada Concept, said: “We are bringing in about one hundred million United States dollars to invest in Cross River to build and evacuate two set of solar plants that will provide each local government headquarters in the state with 100 megawatt electricity to support the industrialization initiative of the state.
This, according to Mehndiratta, is “because of the critical role power plays in any economy. We are here to complement the effort of the state government in promoting industrialization by leveraging on the abundant resources to supply solar powered electricity to the state.”
On his part, Ravi Kumar representative of Simba Group, manufacturers of tricycles, disclosed the decision of his firm to put up a training school in the state on repairs of tricycles.
“We are putting up a training school in Calabar to train mechanics and drivers on how to drive their tricycles safely with the view to reducing the rate of accident,” he said and hinted that: “For the first phase, we are training and also empowering after training, 200 artisans that will be selected across the 18 local government areas with plans to expand for more people as we go on.”
Also, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, T & D Technologies (Nig) Limited, Engineer Nitin Mahajan explained that: “We are bringing in the technology for a large scale mechanized farming in the state to check food insecurity with 100 percent buy back from India and to put in place effective distribution network in the state that will grow agro business in the for wealth creation.”
Responding, Governor Ayade stated that “The good thing with their investment is that they are not coming as a people who are looking for purchase but they are here with a concept to invest, bringing in Indian equity to invest and reap in the process.”
He added that: “If our rice revolution initiative must be sustained, we need these kinds of partnership because I have implicit confidence in them and I am very excited with gratitude to the Indian High Commission for their role in making this a reality.
“I must say that this is one of the investments that are coming due to my trips to India. Today they are here ready to bring in their money to grow our economy and better the lot of our citizenry.”
He continued: “This is good news; indeed this is what has come with the advent of our rice seedling factory because the whole world has watched it and they are fully conscious of what we are doing here. Indians are rapidly going into the world in a fierce competition with China and the rate at which they are going with their sophistication and the reliability of their equipment, I see them as a group to partner with which is the reason they have come to the state.”
On the power supply which has been a major bane to industrialization in the country, Ayade averred that: “Obviously due to the huge investment that will be coming through the rice value chain and the ambitious commitment of the state to do over one million hectares of land for the cultivation of rice and additional twenty thousand hectares for the cultivation of yellow maize, it is obvious that we need partnerships, because these farms are located in stranded communities in the sense that there is no direct access to national grid, so, the connectivity and supply of power from the various Indian groups using photovoltaic cells, their instrumentality of solar power becomes very imperative and we are rooting for them.”
The governor maintained that the power generation will further boost power supply and add value to the Ayade industrial park which he said will soon become a business hub in sub Saharan Africa, as well as increase more access to power at the various farm locations across the 18 local government areas of the state.
Meanwhile, site clearing has commenced at the multimillion feedmill, yellow maize and soybean plant in Ochon.
Mr. Ayade had recently led a team of South African farm experts on irrigation, agronomy, hydro and solar electricity to the site on an inspection tour.
Decked in a brown combat short, camouflage polo and bowler hat to underscore the importance of the inspection, Ayade who also had the Ambassador for Food Security in Africa, Dr. Brylyne Chitsunge, on his entourage, where he said his administration will establish a yellow maize farm which will be the biggest in Africa.
“We are putting a yellow maize farm alongside Soya bean farm for a feed mill. We made a choice of this land as an administration as we are setting up a poultry farm to increase the protein intake of Nigerians and to focus on agriculture as an alternative to oil,” the governor disclosed.
According to him, “this will deal with issues of food security considering the increasing population of Africa, for if we do not do something about agriculture and our protein intake, definitely, the younger generation coming will be in trouble.”
Ayade explained that Cross River was ready to go into full agriculture industrialization as the only way to guarantee prosperity, put food on the table for all as well as keep the young men and women busy.
He reiterated his call on Cross Riverians to take to farming as the most sustainable way wealth creation, and maintained that: “In today’s modern world, farming has gone digital, so the technology that is going to be deployed is such that you are not going to be toiling, you are going to use your brain, press some equipment and get the best of harvest.”
On the choice of the land, he said: “It looks very promising and very hopeful. It was selected based on history and preliminary data,” adding that, “I am sure by the time the experts are done, they will give a final opinion, but it looks very good.”
Chitsunge, on her part had lauded the governor for taking agriculture to a higher pedestal, assuring that her office will support the state’s initiative while ensuring that “anything you do in Cross River will be replicated in the entire nation and indeed Africa.”
The Ambassador who stressed the need to add value to farming as the clothes and food people wear and eat would not have been possible without agriculture, urged youths to “come on board and take ownership of food security as well as build their economy.”
Dale Van Den of Aardway Chansbury Farm in South Africa who was also on the inspection team expressed joy at visit to Cross River and promised a robust partnership, saying “together we are going to strive for the best. We have the expertise, so as we go forward, we will do the soil analysis, investigate and check the climate as well as other possibilities involved for massive production in this land.”
Others, including an irrigation expert, Luan Marais of Senter 360, South Africa and Electrical Engineer, Koos Mostery, assured that they will carry out proper planning and approved soil analysis to boost food security in the state, nation and Africa at large, pointing out that, “the gesture by the governor will create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Head of Local Government Administration for Obubra, Chief Barry Alamo Inyang, lauded Ayade for the decision to site a maize farm and feed mill in the area, a development, which he says will assuage the people who have been neglected by the administrations in the state.
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