The government of Sierra Leone is seeking support from the Ebonyi state government in its quest to check the high cost of rice importation into that country.
Mr Aiah Thorlie, Leader of the country’s study team to Ebonyi on rice production processes, made the declaration on Monday during their visit to various rice mills and processing clusters across the state.
Thorlie, the Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer in the Sierra Leone Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, said that the amount expended on rice importation by its government was huge.
“Our government sinks US$ 300 million on rice importation annually and this is heavy on its economy.
“We hope to apply Ebonyi’s rice production approaches to solve our problems and that is the reason for the study tour,” he said.
He noted that the ministry intends to transform agriculture in Sierra Leone and is embarking on a rice production project, supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
“We heard about the rice agro-processing clusters in Ebonyi and we are impressed with what we saw in the state.
“We are aware of the ban on foreign rice in the state and also saw giant rice processing mills at work.
“We saw more than 100 stores in the Abakaliki rice processing cluster with millers, de-stoners among others, working to produce rice in large quantities,” he said.
Thorlie said that the collaboration with the state government would be sustained with farmers from both countries engaging in exchange programmes from 2024.
Humphrey Nwaobashi, the Ebonyi Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the study tour showed that the state was effectively being marketed agriculturally and beyond.
Nwaobashi said that the team confirmed that what they heard about rice processing in Ebonyi was practical.
“The tour also enabled the team appreciate the road infrastructural strides of the governor which ensure transportation of harvested foods from rural to urban areas.
“The government is committed to making the state the hub of rice production in the country and beyond to attract investors,” he said.
Mr Sunday Ituma, the State Programme Coordinator of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), noted that the tour would be beneficial to both parties.
“IFAD-VCDP has played a major role in the rice success story of Ebonyi and will continue assisting benefiting farmers to boost rice production,” he said.