Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, weekend, assured the people of the state that his administration was focused on exploring the entire value chain for cocoa in order to diversify the economy of the state from its dependence on federal allocation.
Ayade gave the assurance when he embarked on a project evaluation tour of the ultramodern cocoa processing factory being built in Ikom, in the Central Senatorial District of the state.
"At this critical point when oil is almost becoming a thing of the past, Cross River must construct a direction for the Federal Government to follow. We understand the ideological focus of this government to ensure that there is a shift from the continuous dependence on oil to the agricultural sector. So, by the time we are done, we will explore the entire value chain for cocoa and help produce all the end products out of Ikom, making the place the right city to belong," Ayade said.
The governor also enjoined the citizenry to take advantage of the over two million hectares of arable land for Cocoa farming and become millionaires, pointing out that "for every success to be successfully successful, the source of your successful success must be successfully secured and that starts today."
Continuing, Ayade disclosed that his administration will make available 100 thousand hectares of land as well as provide a cocoa microfinance bank to be sited in Ikom so as to provide direct funding for every young man or woman that chooses to go into cocoa farming, adding that "the factory remains an architecture that is driven by a high level of intellectualism, even as all equipment needed for the cocoa factory have been paid for."
National President, Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Sayina Riman, described the project as wonderful and monumental which will further showcase Cross River's position in the first international cocoa summit as the leading state in terms of packaging, production and moving forward.
Riman who is also the Vice President, World Cocoa producing Organization said: "In 2017, we are seeing a transformation that has never before in South- South, Southeast of the Niger. This is the first ever cocoa producing factory in this country and this will not only complement employment but will add value to what we have."
For Executive Director, Nexim Bank, Hon Stella Okotete, "we are here as financial advisors to ensure that the project comes to fruition and the farmers have enough stock to feed the project," adding that "we will do our best to ensure that the project is commissioned in due course, support cocoa farmers in Cross River so that the project comes to a successful end."
Contractor for the project and CEO, AA Agro Industry Universal Services Ltd, Mr. Chris Agara, informed that "when the facility is completed, it will produce about 30,000 metric tonnes of cocoa per year and draw a million dollars of foreign exchange inflow to Cross River."
Earlier, Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof Anthony Eneji, said that "the journey which begins this day through the establishment of the facility will liberate CrossRiverians from economic difficulties."
Meanwhile, Ayade also inspected the ultramodern Rice processing plant in Ogoja where he was welcomed by a jubilant crowd of youths, market women, traditional rulers and non-indigenes of the state who urged him not to relent in his array of laudable projects.
The governor reaffirmed his desire "to put an end to when our own rice will be transported to other states and be milled and called a different name," adding that, "today we are in the process of producing our own rice, Ogoja Rice, and that is our heritage,