By Amaka Agbu
The $12million cassava processing initiative of the Rivers State Government is expected to create 3, 000 jobs as well as enhance the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), of the country.
The state governor, Mr. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, expressed this optimism during a meeting with the board of the Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited at the Government House, Port Harcourt, on Tuesday.
To achieve the desired goal, Governor Wike urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to support the initiative to boost food security, create jobs and earn foreign exchange for the country.
The governor explained that the state government ought to enjoy the support of the CBN in its endeavour to boost food production and reduce importation of cassava products, particularly, processed starch into the country.
According to him, if the Rivers Cassava Processing Company is encouraged, the country’s dependence on imported cassava products would drastically reduce.
The governor regretted the failure of the CBN to accede to Rivers State government’s request for N5billion to boost the agriculture sector in the state, noting that if part of the N5billion was invested in the Rivers Cassava processing initiative, it would create jobs and reduce unemployment.
He suggested that the state government’s 70 per cent equity in the company should be divested to encourage private sector participation and minimise government interference in the affairs of the company.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Fred Kpakol, explained that the multi-million dollar cassava processing plant located at Afam, in Oyigbo Local Government Area, has the capacity to process 45,000 metric tons of cassava tuber to produce 12,500 metric tons of high quality cassava flour.
The Commissioner added that the plant would create over 3000 jobs, and that in the medium term, the company would add starch to its products as well as glucose in the future.
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Speaking during the meeting, the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Reuben Giesen, said the facility would run on environment friendly power from the Rivers State Independent Power Plant in Afam, thereby, setting the pace for the industrialisation of the area.
Mr. Giesen said the state government and its partners, the Netherlands Embassy in Nigeria and the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), had keyed into the cassava production policy of the Federal Government.
The External Relations Manager of SPDC, Mr. Igo Wali, speaking also, explained that Shell had already invested $3.6 Million into the project as a mark of its commitment to boost food security and enhance job creation in the state.