The lingering alleged illegal importation of rice into the country may become a thing of the past, following a partnership between the Federal Government and a Chinese Company, HellogJiang Pingyuan Rice Group 300 million dollars proposed rice project.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Group, Mr. Wang Jing Xin, disclosed the proposed project during a meeting facilitated by the Consul-General of Nigeria in China, Ambassador Ali Ocheni; between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Chinese company in Abuja.
Mr. Wang said the Company would start with 500 hectares of land and later invest 300 million dollars into agriculture in Nigeria.
According to Ocheni, the facilitator of the meeting, the company apart from the investment, would provide opportunity for the training of local farmers and transfer of technology, and also collaborate with the ministry in building a research institute, help local farmers to improve themselves and equally, provide job opportunities to Nigerians.
Responding, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh stated the need to take every step to ensure that states in Nigeria partner with the company on the proposed rice project, stating that an expanse of land earlier mapped out for rice production in Bayelsa State would be considered for the project.
The Minister who said Kebbi, Zamfara and Ogun States respectively could be encouraged to collaborate with the company also requested the company to consider the production of vegetables. Chief Ogbeh said Agriculture is not only relying on rainfall but also irrigation, he therefore advised the company to think along irrigation projects since Nigeria does a lot of dry season farming.
Already, some states namely, Imo, Cross River and Akwa Ibom are said to have shown interest in the proposal, and other states have also been encouraged to partake in the project to help Nigeria become self –sufficient in rice.
In a related development, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has tasked the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to devise a new strategy to accommodate the new programmes of the ministry.
The Minister listed the need to minimize the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers, expansion of the value chains, rural sustenance, and conversion of cassava leaves into animal feeds, industrial starch production and production of small harvesting machineries in cluster communities, among the requests of the ministry. He assured IFAD of the strong commitment of the ministry.
In his response, the Regional Director, Central and West Africa Division of IFAD, Mr. Ides Wilbrow, praised the excellent relationship between IFAD and Nigeria but prayed for more partnership.
Ides commended Nigeria for taking the lead in the diversification from oil to agriculture and pleaded with the Minister on the need to have a well-structured process for the implementation of projects for easy decision making.
He pledged the readiness of IFAD to support agricultural projects in Nigeria and requested the minister to facilitate the hosting of IFAD workshop, which is expected to host 300 participants from 24 countries in Nigeria next year.