From David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
In line with the resolve of Anambra state government under the leadership of Governor Wille Obiano to revolutionalize agriculture, especially rice production in commercial quantities even for export, many companies and individuals have embraced the gesture to actualize maximum food security in the state and country at large.
But it is unfortunate that the major stakeholders in rice production, including Stine Industries Limited, Amichi, Anambra State adjudged to be the biggest privately owned rice mill East of the Niger have not been given the necessary assistance to achieve steady full capacity production.
A recent visit to the rice mill in Amichi by Mr Tajudeen Kareem a media consultant along with Yeye Bolanle Olatunde and Mr Bolade Ajadi from Abuja to see what could be done to help the industry showed that the mill needs urgent help in the area of power supply.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Chief Akai Egwuonwu said the mill which came into existence in 2005 has the capacity to produce 440 tons of rice per day if it works in full capacity.
Apart from the needed adequate funds to inject into the mill, its major constraint, he said, was power generation to run numerous heavy equipment brought in from China, Germany and India.
He said he conceptionalized setting up the mill having considered the volume of rice that was hitherto being imported into the country.
He recalled that his rice mill mopped up all the rice grains produced by farmers in Anambra State in 2015 which were processed for last year’s Christmas celebration and thereafter.
“But after the season, all the three giant power generators in the factory broke down, including the one I bought newly at the price of N82 million. Already we are working hard to get all of them repaired. But that is a setback,”Chief Egwuonwu said.
He explained that the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) used to bill the company N106,000 monthly until recently when it was reduced a little bit, but added that the company had to pay whether power was supplied or not.
He said the company would face disconnection, if the electricity bill was not paid four days after it was issued.
According to him, even when the power was supplied by the EEDC, it would not be strong enough to turn the heavy machines in the mill.
He suggested that since Nnewi is an industrial community, the government should find a way to boost the quality of power supply to the industries there, no matter if they are not in one industrial estate.
He also suggested that the government reconstruct the Oba-Nnewi-Okigwe road which passed through his rice mill in Amichi and other big factories along the road.
The CEO noted that local rice producers had demanded that the government close the border for rice importation, saying that they were happy that the Federal Government yielded to the demand.
He noted that the closure had boosted local production of rice and at the same time made Nigeria not to be again a dumping ground for all manner of rice from other countries.
“Since after this ban, on my own part despite some of the setbacks earlier mentioned, I have restrategized and increased the production capacity of the mill to meet the local demand. More workers are employed and the local rice farmers are enthusiastic to expand their scope of cultivation since everything cultivated are all bought. I commend the Federal Government for listening to the yearnings of local rice producers. And very soon we shall be looking at exporting rice to other countries since our products are of higher quality than even the rice which used to be imported into Nigeria,” Chief Egwuonwu said.
He said because of progress so far made his company had diversified to produce other things like beans noodles, table water and animal feeds thereby generating more employment opportunities for unemployed youths.
Mr Kareen having gone round the gigantic mill with his team came to the conclusion that Chief Egwuonwu was a serious investor whose industry needed urgent government, both state and federal, attention.
He said he had visited the mill for the third time all in an effort to add value to the growth of the company.
He disclosed that he had achieved that through workers’ retreat, advising the workers to sharpen their faculties and put in their best at their work place.
He harped on honesty and hard work, noting that they were the ingredients that would make them successful in life even when they decide to be on their own.
On the issue of inadequate power supply which has been the bane of industrial growth in the country, Mr Kareen said: “We are not a country that plans correctly and adequately. Why shouldn’t government use gas, coal and other energies to solve this nagging power problem across the country? A lot of gas is wasted, we have coal, there is solar energy and even the wind.
“We should go to the developed countries who can help us develop these things. We should swallow our pride and beg them to help.”