About 124,823 hectares of swamp land have been identified by the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Akwa Ibom Chapter, for rice cultivation in the state.
The state chairman of RIFAN, Professor Etim Ituen, who made the disclosure in Uyo at the unveiling and exhibition of Ibom Golden Rice, produced by the Ibiono Ibom Chapter of RIFAN in conjunction with their local government council, said more than 80 per cent of the local government areas in Akwa Ibom are blessed with swamp for rice cultivation.
Ituen, represented at the occasion by the state secretary of RIFAN, Prince Emmanuel Essienobom, recalled that since the inception of rice cultivation in the 1960s till the disengagement by government from direct rice production in the mid-1980s, a paltry 6,621 hectare of swamp land had been developed.
Individuals and groups, he said, cultivated only 8,575 hectares of swampland at subsistence level, which he said, was grossly inadequate to achieve food sufficiency in the state.
Ituen said not much could have been recorded by the Ibiono Ibom rice farmers in the production of Ibom Golden Rice for public presentation in Uyo, but for the state government assistance in land clearing.
He solicited continued government and RIFAN partnership in the areas of more land clearing and provision of certified improved high yield inputs to rice farmers in the state.
The RIFAN chairman assured the state government and the people that if at least 25,000 hectares of land are developed across the state by the government, his members would do their best to produce rice in commercial quantity for the government and people to be proud of.
While applauding Ibiono Ibom council chairman, Mr EkomAbasi Akpan, for partnering the local government chapter of RIFAN in the production of Ibom Golden Rice, Ituen enlisted the cooperation of other local government council chairmen with RIFAN in the commercial cultivation and processing of rice.
His words: "This is just Ibiono Ibom Chapter, think of what will happen when the almighty Akwa Ini Rice from Ini Local Government Area; Akwa Uruan Rice, Akwa Enin Rice, Akwa Onna Rice, Akwa Itu Rice; Akwa Ubium Rice; Akwa Anam Rice or Akwa Oro Rice, just to mention a few, are made available in commercial quantity as we are witnessing today. What we are witnessing today is a practical demonstration of our belief that to achieve success in food sufficiency programme, collective responsibility is needed through a healthy partnership, and not an individual venture.â€
Akwa Ibom RIFAN, he said, has taken rice farming as a challenge and serious business to break the jinx of subsistence rice cultivation in the state.
Ituen explained that rice farmers in the state were saddled with the responsibility of producing rice to make the state one of the leading rice producing states in the country under the platform of Akwa Ibom Rice Project (ARP).