By Eyo Eyo
It in its efforts to shore up the production of cocoa to 500,000 metric tons per annum within the current “cocoa revolution” in the state, Cross River State Government has taken delivery of machines, equipment’s and accessories valued at billions of naira’s for the ultra-modern cocoa processing factory at Ikom.
Eight trucks loaded with equipment arrived the factory premises recently setting the stage for installation and full operation as it is not unlikely that the first phase of the cocoa processing plant will be commissioned later this year. Receiving the delivery note from contracting firm A.A Universal on behalf of the government Special Adviser to the Governor on Cocoa Development, Dr. Oscar Ofuka said at the factory site that it was a major leap forward in the aspiration to make Cross River State Nigeria’s cocoa hub.
Dr. Ofuka said, with the machinery on ground, installation will begin in a couple of weeks to set the stage for crushing cocoa beans through the process of washing, cleaning and drying in line with International Best Practices (IBP), adding the factory has the capacity to crush 6,000 metric tons of cocoa per day.
“The arrival of the machinery is a dream come true and a clear indication of the determined effort of Governor Ben Ayade to stimulate the state economy through industrialization and infrastructural development”
“I am really very happy and I am sure, all well-meaning cross riverians are, too. Governor Ayade has kept to his promise not to privatize the cocoa estates in the state. He had said he would build an ultra-modern cocoa processing plant instead. Today, that vision has come to fruition”. The Special Adviser observed.
“Ayade is a talk and do governor, Dr. Ofuka said, over dependence on oil made successive administration in the state to abandon industrialization. Ayade has a clear vision on the path to greatness for Cross River State and deserve the support of the people of the state”, Ofuka added.
He said when fully operational, the cocoa factory will engage a sizeable number of youths and women as well improve the average economy of cocoa farmers and generate revenue for services of the state government.
Dr. Ofuka said, he would not relent in his message for cross riverians to plant cocoa, not just as ornamental tress but as special economic trees within available space, pointing out that cocoa is the new gold of the state.
Witnesses who were at the factory site extolled governor Ayade as a pragmatist with great leadership qualities and vision for the development of the state.
President of the Cocoa Associating of Nigeria (CAN) and Vice President, World Cocoa Producers Association, Mr. Sayina Riman stated at the factory site that the processing plant is the first of it kind explaining that, with the feat, Ayade has added value to cocoa.
“There is going to be value addition in cocoa in state and for the first time, cocoa farmers are going to consume what they produced. A lot of auxiliary activities are going are going to spring around the factory.
Ayade is a value addition governor,” the CAN president said. Deputy State Chairmn of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party in the state, Mr, Patrick Ebam Emanghe described the factory as a breakthrough in the quest for economic prosperity of the state, a feat he said has reposed more confidence on governor Ayade.
As he observed; “each of the senatorial districts has an industrial presence through the vision of the governor. While the cocoa processing plant is located in the central senatorial district, rice is rooted in the north and the garment factory, south of the state”, the PDP deputy state chairman observed.
He commended governor Ayade for creating a department for cocoa development hitherto, unheard of arguing, more have been achieved in the sector within a short space of time especially with the appointment of Dr. Oscar Ofuka to pilot affairs of the department.
Paramount Ruler of Etung Local Government Area HRM (Ntufam) Dr. Emmanuel Oru Ojong who was also at the factory site expressed joy that he was a living witness of the arrival of the machinery for the factory.
According to the royal father, governor Ayade has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that cocoa is key to greatness of the state. He said with the processing plant, cocoa farmers would no longer export cocoa a raw beans and called on the people of cross river central senatorial district to rally their support for governor Ayade in the fourth coming general elections.
Earlier while conducting the Special Adviser round the off-loaded machine the site manager, Mr. Dapo Olayemi and the general manager, locorelli Francesco Antonio stated that installation of the machines and equipment will commence soon and within two months, the phase of work would have been completed. The site manager commended governor Ayade for the vision to establish the industry in the state.
Shouts of “Ayade is working. Digital, digital” rented the air by all those who were present at the factory site to witness arrival of the factory machinery, seen generally as necessary step towards maximization of cocoa as a main stay of the cross river economy.