Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on Tuesday, expressed optimism that the state’s $12 million cassava processing initiative will create jobs and enhance the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
Wike also 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 stated this during a meeting with the board of the Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
He 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 will drastically reduce.
The governor regretted that the CBN has failed to accede to Rivers State government request for N5 billion to boost the agriculture sector in the State. He noted that if part of the N5 billion is invested in the Rivers Cassava processing initiative, it will create jobs and reduce unemployment rate.
He suggested that the State government’s 70 percent equity in the company should be divested to encourage private sector participation and minimise government interference in the affairs of the company.
The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Fred Kpakor 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.
Kpakor added that the plant will create over 3000 jobs, and that in the medium term, the company will add starch to its products as well as glucose in the future.
The Managing Director of the company, Reuben Giesen, said the facility will run on environment friendly power from the Rivers State Independent Power Plant in Afam, thus, setting the pace for industrialisation of the area.
Giesen said the State government and its partners, the Netherlands Embassy in Nigeria and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), have keyed into the cassava production polity of the Federal Government.
The External Relations Manager of SPDC, Igo Wali, 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.