Governor Babatunde Fashola
By Gboyega Akinsanmi
Lagos State Government Tuesday inaugurated a rice processing factory, which it said had the capacity to produce 20,000 metric tonnes per annum (equivalent to either 350,000 or 400,000 bags)
Governor Babatunde Fashola unveiled the factory in Imota, Lagos along with the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Gbolahan Lawal, and Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr. Alhaji Bukar Tijani Borno.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the governor said the development was a wakeup call on hoodlums popularly referred “to as area boys to vacate the street and key in on the employment opportunities that the factory offers.”
According to him, the factory was situated on a 23,000-hectare industrial estate and had about 10,000-tonnes storage for rice paddy and 45,000-ton capacity storage for finished rice.
He added that time for miscreants to reign in Lagos “is over. The time for wealth without work is over we have provided the framework for you to get your hands busy, get off the streets and go to the farm.
“We will give you farm land. I will give you the support. If you put your mind to it, there is prosperity. Our land is too green for us to be hungry. Our youths must be ready to work in the farms that we are creating.”
The governor reiterated the state government’s commitment towards reinvigorating its agricultural sector, noting that it “is only through such that the nation can summon its economic challenges. We are beginning to see progress and a clear path towards establishing a sustainable agriculture.”
According to Fashola, there was need for government at all levels to begin to consider investment through development of infrastructure, input, budgetary allocation and funding for farmers.
He said the establishment of the rice mill was a journey that started four years ago when it was discovered that the state was cultivating only 30 hectares of farm land per annum, saying it was double to 250 hectares within two years while it has a set target to increase production to 500 hectares.
He urged the Federal Government to release land in Ogun River Basin to enable it increase its production and meet the facility processing capacity while directing the state ministry of works and Infrastructure, energy and commerce and industry to ensure the development of good road network, constant power supply and improve infrastructure within the industrial estate.
Speaking at the forum, Tijani commended the state government for the development of the infrastructure which he described as government’s response in meeting the aspirations of the electorate.
He said governance “is all about responding to those who elected you. The development was in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda of food security through improve agriculture in the country.
“We have to start to produce more rice, we cannot continue to depend on rice importation from countries such as Thailand and Indian, but we have to start now to produce what we can eat.
“Lagos was among the few states in Nigeria that is championing this course while assuring of the support of the Federal government to improve commercial agriculture. We will do more in Lagos when it comes to commercial activity to make food sufficient and improve our value chain.”
Earlier, Lawal said the factory built with Korean Technology to the highest technological and operational standards can process rice which would compare with the best quality rice from any part of the world.
He added that the facility, if operated optimally could produce between 350,000 and 400,000 bags of rice per year.
He said the target of the state was to increase local rice production and enhance food security, saying the country presently depends largely on Thailand and Pakistan for rice which according to him, increases the food security risk level.