From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
As attention is being shifted to agriculture because of dwindling fortunes in oil revenue in the country, many investors are now looking back and navigating into agricultural ventures while those who are already in the sector are doing everything possible to increase their production frontiers.
In line with this , the biggest rice mill in the country, Stine Industries Limited, Amichi in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, has embarked on expansion programmes.
Stine Industries Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Chief Akai Egwuonwu, has also assured the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, that the multi-million naira mill has the capacity to produce enough rice to meet the rice demand of the entire South-East and beyond.
It was gathered that last year, the rice mill mopped up all the rice cultivated in Anambra, milled them and the state government was able to get enough rice supply with which it did Christmas celebration for all civil servants and other residents in the state, and yet there were still hundreds of thousands of bags of rice left in stock after the season as milling continues, Chief Egwuonwu said.
According to Chief Egwuonwu, the company produces 141,000 metric tons of rice annually though it has not reached its optimum production capacity due to some challenges which bordered on electricity power supply, access road, paucity of paddy and more funds to be injected into the capital-intensive mill.
Despite the challenges, however, the CEO whose company in May 2016 received an award as the Best Rice Brands in Africa from the Institute for Government Research Leadership Technology said the mill that commenced full operation in August 2012 has about 180 personnel directly employed by the company and over15,000 dependent and indirectly employed workers.
He recognized the efforts of Governor Obiano whom he said had given the company a strong support with a visionary and progressive push.
“In the past one year, it is on good record that His Excellency has partnered with us and patronized our products so much, and that has greatly enhanced our production output. Stine Industries today has the capacity to meet the rice demand of all the Eastern states in Nigeria,” he said.
The rice miller noted that the revolutionary agricultural policy of Obiano in the area of rice cultivation had contributed immensely to the company’s increase in productivity, adding that credit must go to the efforts of the Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon Afam Mbanefo and the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Agriculture, Engr Mike Ogbuekwe for their immense contributions and direction towards the advancement of food cultivation in the state.
He said that the governor’s support and patronage had propelled the company to diversify into fish feeds production, poultry feeds, noodles manufacturing and table water production.
He expressed satisfaction that the credit facility Obiano extended to the mill through Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA) had gone a long way towards helping Stine Industries businesses and capacity.
His wprds: “Our appreciation is evergreen and inexhaustible. We, therefore, thought it wise to perform the corporate social responsibility to commence the training of 200 youths of Nnewi South extraction on fish farming as facilitated by the Managing Director of ASBA, Chief Clem Chukwuka and anchored by Special Assistant to the Governor on Fishery, Hon Emeka Iloghalu, and coordinated by Engr Chieloka Okoye. Our target is to feed the entire nation as far as rice production is concerned,” he said.