The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has charged the firm running its multi-million-naira rice mill at Elele-Alimini in 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 paddy rice.
A press statement issued, Wednesday, by Director Corporate Affairs, Dr Ibitoye Abosede, said the NDDC Interim Administrator, Dr. Efiong Akwa, spoke after inspecting the six-tonne-per-hour rice mill and called for a more robust engagement with local rice farmers in the region.
The NDDC chief executive, who was represented by the Commission’s Director of Agriculture, Dr. Luke Ibanga, stated that the facility which was leased to Elephant Group in 2017 would create more job opportunities for youth in the Niger Delta region.
Akwa decried the low level of involvement of local rice farmers in the value chain of the rice mill, noting that part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the NDDC 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,” her aasured.
Akwa emphasised 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.
He observed that, “The rice mill will serve not only the farmers in Rivers State but other rice growers across the region. If all these come together, rice production in the region will increase substantially because the region has a comparative advantage in rice production with several bodies of water and arable land.”
Responding, the Administration and Station Manager of Elephant Group, Mr. Olabode Ojo, explained that the groupwas actively exploring opportunities to increase and improve the level of involvement of local rice farmers in the Niger Delta region with the rice mill.