By Olayinka Olawale
Lagos -The Lagos State Government says it will ensure a steady and sustainable supply of paddy from local farmers for the 32-metric tonne per hour Rice Mill at Imota, upon completion by December.
The state’s Acting Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, gave the assurance on Thursday in Lagos.
Olusanya spoke on the sidelines of an inspection tour and oversight visit to the rice mill by members of the State House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture led by its Chairman, Mr Kehinde Joseph.
She said a good operating model had been put in place to ensure that the mill was efficiently and effectively managed in order to ensure the sustainability of the mill upon completion.
The acting commissioner said that 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 to ensure a steady and sustained supply of paddy for the mill.
According to her, a lot is being done by the state government in partnerships with the corporate and local aggregators, as well as other rice growing state governments.
She said partnerships were centred around paddy aggregation and for the supply of paddy to ensure the smooth running of the mill.
“On Aug. 18, we kicked off the rice farmers’ sensitisation, 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.
“This is why we are giving them the full support and Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu is fully committed to ensure that this mill runs sustainably,” she said.
Olusanya recalled that when the administration of Gov. Sanwo-Olu came into office in 2019, the mill was barely at about 10 to 15 per cent level of completion.
According to her, as at today, the mill has 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 people of Lagos 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 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,” she said.
Olusanya noted 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.
She said: “Also, one of the issues that they have raised is around the management of this mill to ensure that tax payers’ money does not go down the drain.
“This is why from the very onset of this administration, we had employed the services of one of the world’s leading consultancy firms, E.Y, 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 the 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.
Olusanya noted that over 250,000 job opportunities would be created from the input aggregators, providers, farmers, logistics and service providers, marketers as well as distributors along all the entire value chains.
She said that this was 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, zero poverty.
“We will also ensure that there is gender equality and everyone is happy,” Olusanya said.