Lagos govt assures of sustainable supply of paddy for Imota Rice Mill

• Mill to set to generate 250,000 job opportunities

Lagos State government has assured of a sustainable supply of paddy from local farmers for the 32 Metric Tonne per Hour Rice Mill at Imota upon completion by December 2020.

This was just as the state government disclosed that no fewer than 250,000 job opportunities would be created along all the entire value chains in addition to the ripple effects of the project on the locality, among others.

The State Acting Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, gave the assurance in Lagos on the sideline of an inspection tour of the rice mill by members of the State House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture led by its Chairman, Hon Kehinde Joseph.

The commissioner, while giving the assurance, said rice farmers in the state were currently getting the needed support of the state government to ensure that they have a hitch-free planting season in order to ensure a steady and sustained supply of paddy for the mill.

Olusanya disclosed that a lot was being done by the state government in partnerships with the corporate and local aggregators as well as other rice-growing states’ governments around paddy aggregation and for the supply of the product to ensure the smooth running of the mill.

“On Tuesday, we kicked off the rice farmers’ sensitization, training and empowerment programme for over 800 rice farmers in Lagos State. That is just a kick-off as a back up to the Imota Rice Mill Project.

“The reason is even if we are going to source for paddy from other localities, we should start from our own Lagos farmers, our Eko rice farmers which are why we are giving them the full support and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is fully committed to ensuring that this mill runs sustainably,” the commissioner said.

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Olusanya recalled that the mill was barely at about 10 to 15 per cent level of completion stage when the administration of Governor Sanwo-Olu came into power in 2019, noting that as at today, it had attained over 85 per cent rate with the installation of the new lines and equipment as the only outstanding things to be done.

“I want to assure Lagosians that hopefully, this mill will be completed by December 2020. By right, it should have been completed much earlier, but we all understand the issues around the pandemic, the total lockdown and the unavailability of flights; we have the biller team based in Switzerland and India who are supposed to help with regards to ensuring that the mill lines are adequately inspected before installation for the warranty process to take effect.

“If they are unable to come here, there will be a delay which is why there is a bit of a delay but we are dealing with it. The team on the ground is doing virtual calls, they have been able to bring some of the biller expatriates also down here to ensure that the installation continues,” the commissioner stated.

She pointed out that a good operating model had been put in place to ensure that the mill was efficiently and effectively managed in order to ensure its sustainability upon completion.

“Also, one of the issues that they have raised is around the management of this mill to ensure that taxpayers’ money does not go down the drain which is why from the very onset of this administration, we had employed the services of one of the World’s leading consultancy firms, to ensure that we get the right operating model in place. We do not want issues around the sustainability of this mill.

“We do not want it to be another white elephant project. This is why we have taken our time to develop adequate business and management models, not leaving out the financial analysis around how and how soon we can recoup our investment back.

“As a result, we have come up with a standard operating model that we believe looking at the terrain globally of what is tenable in other countries and in other milling operations to get what will make this mill sustainable.

“I want to assure all Lagosians that Mr Governor is doing all he can to ensure that this project is successful,” Olusanya said.

Speaking further, the commissioner disclosed that no fewer than 250,000 job opportunities would be created from the input aggregators, providers, farmers, logistics and service providers, marketers and distributors along all the entire value chains in addition to the ripple effects of the project on the locality among others.

“This mill is going to be a job generator and a wealth generator. We believe that with the partnership of everyone in this locality and the state at large, we will start reaching our food security status goal of making sure that no Lagosian is hungry, that there is zero poverty and also gender equality and everyone is happy,” Olusanya opined.

She explained that already her ministry was working closely with the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure as well as the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development to do a triangulation of the area in order to ease traffic movement among other things.

“We have in this axis, the Imota Rice Mill, the Imota Regional Market and at the Agbowa axis, the Housing Development Scheme coming up around here, therefore, a triangulation is being done to see if another access road can be constructed to ensure that we do not impede the flow and movement of people on the roads that we have existing already.

“We will also explore the waterways as well to ensure that going forward, we do not put so much pressure on our roads. A lot also is actually being done at the Ministry of Water Front Infrastructure around how we can increase the use of our waterways.

“I believe that a holistic solution will be proffered around the issues we have currently in Lagos especially as regards logistics of goods,” the commissioner said.

Also speaking, the Chairman, the State House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture, Hon Joseph, called on the contractors handling the Imota Rice Mill to hasten work on the project in order to meet the December 2020 completion timeline.

Joseph said that the committee was overseeing the project to ensure that percentage of work done so far was commensurate with the money released so far by the state government.

The lawmaker said there was the need for the mill to start operation, protecting that by the time the rice mill starts functioning in December, it would collapse the prices of local rice especially which presently ranged between N20,000 and above.

“We have gone round to see how far they have gone in respect of the rice mill in Imota. The percentage of work done so far is one of the reasons why we are here today to see things for ourselves.

“We are here to see the percentage of work done so far if it is commensurate with the percentage of the money released to them by the government.

“Thank God, with what we have seen, it is not too bad but what matters most to us is that we want the completion timeline to be met. We are being told that hopefully by December, this mill will start functioning.

“About two or three months ago, the Acting Commissioner for Agriculture told us when she visited this place that the percentage of work done so far was 80 per cent or 85 per cent and with the level of the money that has been released to them, I believe they should be able to finish the job before the end of the year.

“That is why I want to call on the contractors to hasten the job because, by the time the rice mill starts functioning, hopefully by December, it is going to collapse the price of local rice, especially in Nigeria.

“That was what LAKE Rice did when the state government introduced it then in 2016/2017. You can see now, an average price of the local rice in Lagos now, is around N20,000 and don’t forget that in December we have Christmas and New year, a period when the demand for rice goes up thus it is going to assist our people if we complete the mill by the December dateline,” he said.

Joseph commended the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture for the great job done so far on the project, adding that the creation of over 250,000 jobs which would come with the completion of the project was indeed laudable.

“I want to use this opportunity to commend the Acting Commissioner and her team, they have done a very good job. The Commissioner told us during the inspection that this mill is going to generate more than 250,000 job opportunities when completed, that alone is something laudable,” the lawmaker said.

“I just want the contractors, the commissioner and her team to please try and work hard to make sure that the contractors meet up with the timeline,” he added.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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