The Niger Delta Development Commission has said the region would soon become the rice belt of the nation.
To this end, the interventionist agency has charged the firm running its multi-million-naira rice mill at Elele-Alimini, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, the Elephant Group, to encourage local farmers in the Niger Delta to be fully engaged in the production of paddies.
NDDC Interim Administrator, Dr Efiong Akwa, gave the charge after inspecting the six-tonne-per-hour rice mill and called for a more robust engagement with local rice farmers in the nine Niger Delta states.
These were contained in a statement issued by NCDC Director, Corporate Affairs, Dr Ibitoye Abosede, in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
The statement said Akwa who was represented by the commission’s Director of Agriculture, Dr Luke Ibanga, stated that the facility which was leased to the Elephant Group in 2017, would create more job opportunities for youths in the Niger Delta region.
The NDDC boss decried the low level of involvement of local rice farmers in the value chain of the rice mill, saying part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the commission and the Elephant Group required the active participation of rice farmers in the region.
“We will take up this issue with the management of the Elephant Group to ensure that they engage the local rice farmers in the Niger Delta region as a key part of the MoU the NDDC signed with them,” Akwa stated.
He stressed the need to ensure that in line with the MoU, paddies were sourced from within the region as this would encourage local rice farming and out-grower farmers would be encouraged to provide the necessary rice paddy for the mill.
Akwa commended the operators of the rice mill for the improvements and additions made to the facility since they took over its operations.
In his remarks, the NDDC Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr Felix Amorue, said the rice mill was set up to improve on the production of rice in the region, which necessitated the partnership with the Elephant Group.
Responding, the Administration and Station Manager of the Elephant Group, Mr. Olabode Ojo, explained that the firm was actively exploring opportunities to increase and improve the level of involvement of local rice farmers in the Niger Delta region with the rice mill.