By Uyoatta Eshieton
Chinese investors are to establish an integrated rice mill in Akwa Ibom State to boost production.
Chairman, Heilongjiang Hegang Sanjiang Plain Rice Group, Heilongjiang, China, Mr. Wang Jingxin, stated this when the delegation visited the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Nathan Matthew Ekaette, in Uyo, the state capital.
Accompanied by the Consular-General of Nigerian Embassy in China, Ambassador Ali Ocheni, the Trade Commissioner in the Embassy, Mr. A. Agboluaje, Jingxin spoke of plans to set up a rice research institute in the state.
He said they were in the state to scout for investment opportunties in the rice value chain.
For a start, he said the company is embarking on a pilot production on 500 hectares of farmland, thereafter expand to 10,000 hectares.
Responding, Ekaette assured the team of government’s preparedness to support them with an enabling environment, adding that Akwa Ibom has a large fertile swamp land of over 100,000 hectares suitable for rice cultivation.
The Commissioner took group on a tour of the moribund government-owned rice farm at Mbiabet Ikpe, Ini Local Government Area. After an assessment of the farm and its adjoining land, the team said there was no need to take soil samples for testing as the luxuriant nature of rice and grasses were indicators of high fertility of the soil.
However, the Chinese investors demanded the construction of a 40-kilometre Odoro Ikpe-Mbiabet Ikpe-Ikot Essiyere Road leading to the farm, clearing of a 500-hectare swamp land and that state government officials undertake a facility tour of the company’s holdings in China to ascertain its capacity as well sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the company and the state government.