Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, says it has re-introduced the N10 billion rice farming programme supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, into its 2020 budget to boost agriculture and create jobs for youths of the Niger Delta region.
Speaking after inspecting the multi-million naira NDDC rice mill at Elele-Alimini in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, the commission’s acting executive director on Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougbuh said that the facility, now under lease to Elephant Group, had a production capacity of 24 tonnes per hour.
Ojougbuh, who was accompanied by the director of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr Doodei Week, noted that the commission had proposed to go into rice farming in the Niger Delta region in its 2019 budget.
“We prepared farmers and they were ready. The CBN guaranteed N10billion support for the project but when the budget got to the National Assembly, the two chairmen of the committees on NDDC removed the N10billion for the project,” he said.
Ojougboh appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the National Assembly not to distort the NDDC 2020 budget, so that agricultural programmes that would benefit the people were not truncated.
He regretted that the NDDC budget for 2019 could not achieve the Commission’s target for agricultural development because the provisions the CBN, Anchor-Borrowers Programme were removed.
In his speech, the Administration and Station Manager of the Elephant Group, Mr Olabode Ojo said the company had spent over N2 billion retrofitting the rice mill to meet the needs of the market, stating that “currently, we are doing six tonnes per hour but we are increasing this to 12 tonnes per hour. Our target is to be able to process 50 tonnes of paddy per year.”
He appealed to the federal government and the NDDC to assist the rice mill by encouraging out- grower farmers that would be growing paddy rice in the Niger Delta region, in order to create jobs for the youths in the region.
The NDDC rice mill was constructed, completed, test-run and commissioned in 2008 before it was leased to the Elephant Group to ensure sustainability and efficiency.