By NWOGHA NDUBUISI ANDY, Abakaliki
Ebonyi State Commissioner for Rice Mill Development, Chief Moses Oshibe, has unveiled the government’s plan to boost rice production, processing and milling in the state.
Commissioner Oshibe made this known on Monday while briefing newsmen after his meeting with the rice mill owners at Abakaliki Rice Mill Conference Hall.
Oshibe who had since his appointment into the new ministry by Governor David Umahi met with all the rice dealers, brainstorming ways to make Abakaliki rice mills best in the world over, said, the state governor is determined to achieve this feat by introducing rice processing and milling with new technologies.
He noted that, the rice dealers have been formed into corperative societies to enable them facilitating loans from the financial aiding bodies such as the Bank of industry to meet up with the state government’s target.
The Commissioner pledged commitment to develop the new ministry to an international standard with assurance of the modern facilities, and charged the rice dealers to be the partners in progress.
He also assured the rice dealers of an installation of power generator through a reliable source to supply the millers with power to use for rice processing and milling at low cost in the state.
“I will channel all my energies to this ministry to ensure its development gets to an international standard. The creation of this ministry is to unite rice dealers for the development of rice mills in this state. Ebonyi State is known because of our rice. Abakaliki rice is known across the country. That is why our governor has deemed it necessary to develop it to the level of international standard and beyond.
“We have travelled far and wide, to see what is happening over there in the developed country. And we believe that we are going to get such thing in Ebonyi State. This is what formed my appointment as the Commissioner for rice mill development. This is my constituency, rice mills in the whole of Ebonyi State whether big or small are under me. All we need is your cooperation. I will run this new ministry with an open door policy. Whatever you think is the best way to make this ministry to bre develop faster, feel free to tell me”, the Commissioner said.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Abakaliki Rice Mill, Hon. Samuel Ogodo expressed gratitude to the state governor, saying that, the building of the mill’s perimeter fencing and the appointment of a proven person as the Commissioner for the rice mill development remained their greatest joy; promised to offer his best to boost the rice processing and milling in the state.
However, the Chairman of Abakaliki Rice millers Association, Hon. Elikoro Chukwuma and another dealer from Ikwo axis, Hon. Mrs. Favour Nwigbere, among others called for government funds and reduction of revenue charges to enable the millers and their customers cope with their business in the state.
“For those of us that buy from far North, and other distant areas from Abakaliki, we have challenges while embarking on this business. Like Benue, Cross River, and Ebonyi State, when we come on daily basis, we discover there is another checking point, and this keeps increasing on daily basis. This has made us to pass many difficulties, from last two months now, our customer carries our goods from Taraba state to Abakaliki, called us for a meeting, and now asked us to pay additional money, we used to pay him, one thousand naira per bag, but he asked us to increase it to one thousand two hundred Naira to enable him pass through Enugu to Ebonyi.
“It has become a great challenge to millers. Here now, the only farmers are milling rice now. We find it difficult to access rice. If we are accessing it we cannot sell it.
“We appeal to the Commissioner to assist us communicate to the governor to help us out of these challenges. Before, we have two check points but it has presently increased to eight. And if the government of Ebonyi State will help us to talk to Cross River and Benue States, we the rice traders will be happy.
“We equally use to pay ten Naira to twenty Naira, but it has increased to fifty Naira per bushel, and now it has increased to one hundred and fifty Naira per bushel. And the customers see these as very difficult to them. Every businessman checks the profit he makes, and in calculating all these, there are some of them that have left to north to source where to get rice.
“So, if the Commissioner will talk to our Governor, atleast, they should come to our aide by reducing the revenue charges because formerly it was six hundred thousand naira but now, we per 3.5 million naira monthly and we cannot get it here. And before you get it you must get it from the people. So we beg the government of Ebonyi State to help us so that our customers that run away from here will come back and we that are trading here will have something to go home and feed our families”, Elikoro appealed.
Mrs. Nwigbere added: “The rice I want to produce now is in international package. By God’s grace I went to Exporters’ meeting last week, and my expectation is to export main Abakaliki rice to international arena so that they will know that what they are doing in other countries even here in Ebonyi State we can do.
“We are promoting the economy of Ebonyi State and even Nigeria at large. So, Ebonyi rice is the main one because you can’t get it elsewhere. The nutrition value of Ebonyi produced rice is equal to none. By the time we promote this product to nationally and internationally, international bodies will be coming to Ebonyi State to buy rice and that is our target.
“From the international market now, there is a new modern machine. And we need government to assist us to get the latest machine in the market to use and process the rice. We need fund, because by this fund, I mean it will be used to develop the business more. With this assistance, we can buy in a large quantity, and even buy rice from the local farmers and if the fund is given, we can share it with the farmers, to farm rice and Abakaliki rice will be surplus. We aggregate and buy them off, and then, do processing, milling and send it to the market.
“We become the anchors. The advanced economy is in chain distribution. One person cannot do it. Like if we get this fund now, we share it to farmers, they will go and then produce rice in large quantity, make it available to millers, the rice processors to buy it, and process it, because, one person cannot do all the whole work alone” she said