Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Charles Udoh, has said the state will lead Nigeria’s agriculture revolution.
He said the aggressive agricultural sector reforms undertaken in the last three and half years of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration were driven by the passion for an agricultural revolution that will radically shoot up the state’s financial system and revolutionise Nigeria’s economy.
Udoh spoke during a chat with selected editors recently, on the giant strides achieved by the state government in the areas of agriculture.
He said: “We are doing everything in synergy. Even in our construction, our road networks are no more one directional. We have road networks that are linking the industrial and agricultural hub. This is to ensure cost of transportation of agricultural products and cost of doing business for the industries we are building are minimised as much as possible.”
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He also said with the resources from oil dwindling gradually, the Emmanuel-led administration is adopting proactive measures and best practices to assure reduced dependence on oil derivation, through massive agricultural development and massive state-wide agricultural schemes, which include mechanised agriculture, increased empowerment of farmers for improved production, and accelerated livestock schemes, to enhance quality of life of every citizen.
Some areas in agriculture which the commissioner highlighted that stand Akwa Ibom out, in the campaign of exploring agriculture and food sufficiency for the economic growth and social transformation of its people, include the coconut refinery and plantation project, the new cattle ranch built in partnership with a Mexican company, Akwa Prime Poultry and Hatchery, the cassava value-chain project and mega garri processing factories, the cocoa resuscitation programme, the vegetable green houses project and the tomato processing plant, among others.
Explaining further, Udoh said each of these projects was carefully picked to achieve maximum and multiple impact in the economic life of the state and its people, towards making Akwa Ibom the food basket of Nigeria.
“If you look at the coconut oil sector,” the commissioner continued, “this is nature’s most endowed and benefiting tree to man. It is one of the longest surviving plants with more than 365 usages and a value chain that triples other economic generating ventures.
The coconut oil refinery alone is expected to provide direct employment for more than 500 youths who would also undergo training in various aspects of the project.”
On poultry investments, Udoh said: “We realised that one of the major issues this state had was that of day-old-chicks (DOCs). Interestingly, we used to bring in thousands of DOCs every week and that is a lot of capital flight. A way to strengthen the economy of the state is to develop a value chain for the poultry because we consume a lot.
“So, what we did was to develop a huge hatchery that is running now. The target of this big hatchery is to produce 230,000 day old chicks per week, which can be supplied to the entire eastern Nigeria and the North East.
“The government has equally constructed a breeder farm complex, for raising breeders.”
Stating that Akwa Ibom state is making revolutionary agricultural strides in cattle ranching, Udoh revealed that agreement has been concluded with an investor from Mexico to bring in 2,000 herds of cattle to the ranch.
“Allied projects coming with the ranch include meat processing, yogurt processing, and milk processing factories. This fully integrated cattle farm will produce milk, cheese, meat, hides and skin for various economic uses.”
He said landscaping for the ranch is currently on at Adadia, in Uruan Local Government Area. “All these are tied into government’s promise to provide jobs to alleviate poverty and create wealth.”
Udoh said attention has also been given by Udom’s administration to the resuscitation and massive production of agricultural produce, which include cassava, cocoa, tomatoes, oil palm, rice, maize, plantain, cucumber and other crops that were not, hitherto, grown in the state.
Summarising the strategies used in the state’s agricultural revolution, the commissioner said “basically, the state is deploying Cooperative Agriculture, Value Addition, Out-Grower Schemes, Public-Private-Partnerships, and commercialisation. So far, the results have been quite encouraging. I feel every state needs to start looking creatively at agriculture.
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“That is the fastest means any state can move forward and grow other things. Agriculture is the bedrock of any economy and foundation for many other industries. It is quite thoughtful that we are equally investing in the complete value chain.”