Chief Willie Obiano – Governor, Anambra State
Agriculture is the critical Pillar in my Economic Blueprint. The other pillars are Trade and Commerce, Industrialization and Oil and Gas. We started in Anambra in a very simple way. We hired 14 agronomists led by Prof Omaliko whole profiled the whole of Anambra State, determined where rice would grow best, where maize would grow best and where cassava would grow best. And we formed cooperatives in those areas. So, we have Rice zone, Maize Zone and Cassava Zone.
Structures and Cooperatives
We have about 645 cooperatives in the Rice Zone. There are about 10 – 15 per cooperative. In the Cassava Zone we have about 700 and the maize Area the same. We have prefects in the various zones. We have a Rice Expert, a Maize Expert and a Cassava Expert. These guys guide the farmers in their day to day activities. Again our approach to agriculture is to divide it into two segments – the Commercial Segment and what I call the Subsistence Segment. We are trying to convert this segment to commercial farmers. These are the guys in the cooperatives. We are hoping to build up them and enhance what they are doing.
Improvements and Awards
My emphasis on agriculture is the yield per hectare. In rice for instance, we are doing 4 tons per hectare. But we need to do more with improved varieties. We have done well in rice. When I took over, rice production in Anambra state was about 80,000 metric tons but today it is about 210 metric tons. As you are aware, we now have Anambra Rice and early this year this rice emerged the Best Rice brand in Africa at the Africa Produce Show in Lagos. It emerged ahead of competing brands from South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia, Cameroun and Ghana. That is very motivating to us.
We have a big plant in Amichi that can process rice paddy to finished produce. At the moment, it is running at 55% of installed capacity and that’s why Anambra rice is very scarce. It is in hot demand and supply has not even come close to meeting the demand. Our commercial farming is coming real high. If you go to Anaku today, you’d think you are in Singapore because of Coscharis Farms. He has about 1000 hectares under cultivation already and he is targeting to do 120,000 metric tons. By the way, Anambra consumes about 320,000 metric tons of rice yearly. We are doing 210 now plus 120,000 that Coscharis will be doing, that tells you that we shall soon surpass our local consumption level. Our rice variety is of topmost quality. They call it Furo 47. It is long grain rice and the finishing is perfect. No stone. Anambra Rice is the best rice now.
Beyond that, Lynden Farms is a very big farm that is coming up. They have plans to hatch 3 million chicks per year. They are fully set up already. Delfarm/Songhai is another very big farm that is also already on ground at Igbariam. Delfarm has highly improved crop varieties. Their vegetables rank among the best. Their sorghum is very rich and that’s why Interfact Breweries, brewers of Hero Beer are trying to engage them fully for the supply of raw materials for the beverages they brew. By the way Interfact is brewing 2.7million hectolitres a year.
So, you can imagine the volume of sorghum that will support that. That will create massive employment for the youths, a lot of development for the area and IGR for the state government. Among others, we have Joseph Agro Ltd. Currently it is operating in the Orumba Ufuma area. He has plans to produce about 100,000 metric tons of rice per year. He is also trying to revamp the Omor Rice Mill for additional capacity. See, we are doing quite well.
“Agriculture is the critical pillar in my economic blueprint.”
Vegetables and Exports
As you are aware too, we are doing well in our vegetable export. We have exported well over $5m dollars-worth of vegetables to the United Kingdom. We have exported Onugbu and Ugu and sometimes potato among other things. We have a desk now that is trying to grow the export side of our agriculture.
Some guys have already joined the export trade, like Tiger Foods. As you are probably aware, Tiger Foods is doing 90% of the spices used in cooking rice in Nigeria. Nigerian households are using spices processed in Onitsha to cook rice and that’s a plus. They also export spices to African countries including Libya, Cameroun, and Cote d’Ivoire among others.
When I visited their offices, I wanted them to do backward Integration. By that I mean currently 30% of the raw material they use comes from Anambra while 70% comes from outside Anambra and mostly abroad. We have looked at the content and we are working with them to give them land to plant these crops and produce the raw materials here in Anambra State. And when this takes place and I am sure it will happen within six months, they will begin to have a reasonable local supply of these materials and reduce the import challenges they are facing currently with the exchange rate.
Farmers on the computer
We have already put Anambra on the map with respect to Agriculture. Our vision is to be one of the top 3 states in Nigeria that will be known for quality rice production. We have the same ambition for maize and cassava. We have a strategy and it is working very well. All our farmers are on our data base. We reach our farmers as and when we want. We know the age bracket of all our farmers; we know where they are located.
I am very happy and excited about what we are doing in Agriculture and our people are very happy because most of our youths are now engaged. If you go to Coscharis Farms alone, over 250 people work there. So you can imagine what happens in that community. That’s the kind of thing I want to replicate all over the place. I want our people to be fully engaged. We have to have food in commercial quantity and export some to earn foreign exchange. It will increase our GDP as a state and help to increase the GDP of the country.
Our Roads are Strategic
My predecessor did very well in road construction and I have continued with the roads that he awarded. The challenge is that we slowed down on a couple of them because of the state of the economy. But there are strategic roads that we are building because they are very critical. They are roads leading to Agricultural areas. You can’t have all the farms and foods we are talking about and there are no roads to bring them to the city.
That’s why we are building roads in Anambra North and in Orumba. All the roads that I awarded are towards specific targets – either to industrial areas or farm lands or going straight to the oilfields as you know. It is very important to build roads that way because with that you maximize the economic potential of the road instead of just doing a road that passes through somebody’s house and nothing is happening there.
This is an excerpt of an x-ray by the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, on his administration’s achievements in the area of Agriculture. Information provided by James Eze.