As part of strategies aimed at turning the state’s economy around, Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, yesterday said the state would soon commence export of its ‘grand nain’ specie of banana to Europe.
The governor spoke when he paid an unscheduled visit to the 105-hectare banana plantation being cultivated in Odukpani Local Government Area of the state.
“It is very exciting to see the deep seaport project giving birth to all of these ideas. You cannot build a seaport without planning on the outbound cargo, which is the mistake other ports suffer from,” Ayade said, adding that “we expect that the agro-based industry, which is the focus of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration that I have keyed into, focuses on finding agricultural products that we will be exporting.
“The zero oil road map is very clear to us that indeed in the next few years, oil will be a thing of the past, so for us to move into agriculture, we have to go into the most sophisticated technology, hence our partnership with San Carlos of Mexico.”
Hinting that the first harvest was expected in May this year while the commercial export harvest will be in 2019, Ayade said “if we must grow agriculture, we must make sure we take it away from subsistence farming, ensuring that those farming don’t do so in agony, pain, hunger and melancholy, but follow the latest trend which is mechanised and technology-driven.”
On the level of sophistication of the farm, Ayade said: “We have the cable train running all-round, so with the press of a button, bananas go through the plant, processed, packaged and exported to Germany and other countries. It will provide sufficient outbound cargo from our deep seaport, that way, we don’t have a situation where ships come into Nigeria and after discharging they have nothing to take back.”
Giving insight into the employment opportunities provided by the farm, the elated governor said: “I am impressed with the number of young people that are working here, these are people that would have been on the street; over 1, 000 young people are engaged already. After Christmas, the next cultivation will start and that will bring another 1, 000 young men who will be doing the debushing and land clearing.”
In their separate remarks, Operations Manager, Cobus Schlcbusch and the Farm Manager, Martins Cruz, said the plantation will be using a combination of Mexico and Costa Rica technology and will be supplied to local markets as well as exported to other countries.
According to them, “the banana bunches will be between 35 and 40 kg,” even as personnel working in the plant will be trained to meet the requirements expected of packaged products for export.
“The parental seedlings from Mexico and Costa Rica remain unique and can resist crop related diseases in Nigeria.”