The Kogi State government recently unveiled its indigenous rice called ‘Confluence Rice’. The product, which is packaged in 50kg bags, was unveiled to the public on the eve of last Christmas by Governor Yahaya Bello.
At the ceremony, the governor said the ‘agricultural revolution’ that led to the production of the rice was in line with the economic diversification agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He said the efforts and agricultural policy of the Federal Government which the Kogi State government strived to implement have now given the state the capacity to produce good quantity rice that could feed the entire country.
“It means that Kogi markets and markets in the 10 states that share boundaries with our state, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will be flooded with Confluence Rice.
“I don’t need to make much noise in the media; our rice is the best and the cheapest in Nigeria,” he claimed.
However, checks by Daily Trust on Sunday indicate that the newly unveiled Confluence Rice is yet to hit markets in the state not to talk of neighbouring states. There was no trace of the product at the major markets and shops within Lokoja metropolis when our correspondent visited.
This is just as some observers have described the launch of the Kogi rice as a move to score some political points by the government.
Our correspondent reports that soon after the unveiling of the rice, the government directed that 50 bags be sent to each of the 239 wards in the state (a total of 11,950 bags) for onward distribution to the electorate.
The gesture, according to the governor, was meant to put smiles on the faces of the people during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
“While this may not have reached every person and every household, I am aware that it has reached every ward. This direct distribution of foodstuff, particularly rice, has put food on tables which will otherwise be empty, especially during the festive season.
“We will work to grow this food direct programme in 2018 while expanding the scope to include other essential commodities like medicines,” the governor said in his New Year broadcast.
However, a rice farmer, Alkali Dan Usman, has expressed hope that the Confluence Rice initiative recently unveiled is “for real” and not mere political propaganda.
He lauded the state government for embarking on the establishment of its own rice milling factory, saying it would add more value to the produce of rice farmers and also make the state a rice production hub.
“I’m saying this because the immediate past administration of then Governor Idris Wada also came up with an indigenous rice production initiative but which was never sustained. I hope this one is not going to be like that”, he said.
You can get them at agric ministry – Commissioner
Reacting to various doubts on the produce, the state government said the idea behind the Confluence Rice was not political reason but to fully harness the rice potential across the state and make it one of the leading rice producers in the country.
The commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Kehinde Oloruntoba, said the Confluence Rice Factory, Omi, would be inaugurated in March this year as part of efforts to join leading rice producing states in the country.
Oloruntoba said the state was one of the leading rice producers but was never acknowledged by relevant authorities and institutions.
“We are one of the highest rice producing states in the country with Ibaji, Idah, Bassa, Girinya, Ofu, Omi and other rice producing areas but the state is always missing from the list of rice producing states in the country.
“We established a 50-metric tonnes rice mill at Omi in Yagba-West Local Government of the state while the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) is also complementing that effort by installing another 50-metric tons capacity rice processing mill at Ibaji,” he also said.
He said the Confluence Rice recently unveiled was a pilot project cultivated on 400-hecatre land at Omi rice farm, harvested there and taken to Star Milling Company, Offa, Kwara State for processing.
“That does not make it Offa rice. We should remember that this is a pilot project and we needed to keep faith with the promise made by the governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to float the Confluence Rice before the end of December, 2017.
“We had an arrangement for the milling of the rice. The rice was not rebagged as claimed by some people. All the activities of production of the rice were done in Omi, except the milling.
“Whatever we cannot do, we will not say we have done,” he said, adding that about 4,500 hectares of land had been devoted to the production of rice at Omi.
The commissioner added that 1,000 hectares of the land would be strictly devoted to modern rice cultivation and processing deploying modern technology.
Oloruntoba said the state government would partner with viable private investors in the production and processing of Confluence Rice to ensure its profitability and sustainability.
He said the target of the state government is to generate nothing less than N100 million monthly from the Omi Rice Factory by the time it becomes operational.
On the availability of the product in the market, Oloruntoba explained that the recently launched Confluence Rice was a pilot initiative and might not have flooded the market as anticipated.
He, however, said that the product was still available at the ministry for those that want to obtain it.
Oloruntoba expressed optimism that Confluence Rice will come out in a bigger dimension this year’s farming season, saying that the planned 50 metric tonnes per day rice factory would take off soon.
Credit: Daily Trust