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Harvest time as digital rice mill berths in Imo

Over the years, clarion calls have been going round the South East to their illustrious sons and daughters to always think home when issues of investment come up. The ‘Think Home’ philosophy (Aku ruo ulo) which has been adopted by the entire five South Eastern states have seen the various governments urging affluent individuals in the state to bring home and invest part of their wealth in their state.

The industrialisation of the Old Eastern Nigeria is one thing that speaks for late Dr. Michael Okpara, the former Premier of the defunct Eastern region up till today. It is also the same industrialisation of the Old Imo State that distinguished late Dr. Sam Mbakwe above others even after his demise. With unemployment rate rising and approaching with speed at every giving time, with population increasing in geometric progression, it is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that only establishment of industries where people will be employed and food made available will help the looming danger. Over the years, the call has been answered by some notable industrialists mostly from Nnewi axis of Anambra State and few from the Orlu axis of Imo State and of course other well meaning Igbos.

For Mrs. Ifeyinwa Nnanna Mba, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Diva World Trading Services, makers of Diva Rice, she explains why she decided to join the league of those, who have answered the great clarion call of ‘Aku ruolu’ Her firm has set up a 30-ton digital rice mill in Mgbidi, headquarters of Oru West Local Government Area, Imo State. Mba said the mill, first of its kind in Imo state, will help make the country and the region sufficient in rice production, as well as create jobs.

She said she was well experienced in rice business, as she has been into the business for many years. Mba said her reason for setting up the digital mill in Mgbidi, her home town is majority of South East rice dealers go beyond the region to get products to sell. She added that the absence of standard mills in Imo state and a burning desire to create employment for the youthful population also informed the siting of her industry. Mba said the coming of the 30 tons diva digital rice mill, rice farmers within the region now have available market waiting for their rice paddies.

She noted that Diva Rice was not new, as it has been in the market for two years now, but has been producing on a rented mill outside the South-East. Mba said: “We started our production from Benue State on a rented facility. We were still using analogue mills. The local farmers will boil the rice in drums, sun it outside, and it could take three to four days before the sun can dry it. “If it actually starts raining, production will stop. We were losing customers and refunding. I decided to set up my own standard digital mill that can change the narrative and compete favourably.

“We acquired land, September 2020 and today, our mill is here. We got in touch with some Chinese companies who happen to be our partners now. “So, our 30-ton machine gives us a minimum of 400 bags of 50kg per day of well processed rice. These 400 bags per day, is if we decide to work for eight hours. If we decide to work for 12 hours, we should get a full trailer load of rice.

“With our machine, we also have a digital boiler and a digital dryer because without these two to support the machine, the business will be hampered. “Our plan is to create employment and help South-East and Imo people to grow the economy of the state.

A lot of our youths are not doing anything. We’re coming to help.” She explained that the mill is not just meant to produce only diva branded rice, adding that the mill is open for businessmen and women who want to have their own brand of rice sold in the market. She added: “If you also have your rice and you only want us to help you sort out stones, we’ll do that. We have the minimum order we take on that, but we’ll do it perfectly and give you a perfect stone-free rice and bag it for you the way you want. “We’re very much open for business in the South East.

If anybody wants his own company’s branded rice, they can simply get their branded bags, come to us, we’ll simply deliver without problems. The person must not sell Diva Rice.” Mba explained that Diva Rice has been in the market since 2019 when the President Muhammadu Buhari stopped importation of rice into the country. One how she wishes to succeed in rice milling business without a rice farm, she explained that she already has suppliers of rice paddies from different parts of the country. She said: “We have contractors we buy paddies from. They move it down to Mgbidi now for the mill. We buy mostly from the North and Abakiliki.

I’ve also heard that paddies are in Anambra State and we’ll still ho there to see whom to talk to. “It’s important to have places to get paddies in enough quantity because that’s where it’s cheaper. If it’s not where you can readily access it, it’s actually expensive.

“We try to avoid that because it may make the end products to be costly for consumers. We already have our paddy suppliers.” She said the Diva World Trading Services mill currently gets from 200 tons and above paddies monthly, mills 30 tons daily, but plans to increase its production capacity in the middle of next year from 50-100 tons per day. On the challenges facing the digital rice mill in Mgbidi, Mba said she was not in doubt that the investment driven government of Imo State will help in tackling all the obvious challenges.

She said: “Take a good look at lands here, aside Diva, other industries are coming, so with that kind of serious investment driven government we have, I see our roads improving for the better. “This is my home and I know things will improve. Even in electricity, I also know they’ll come to our aid soon. We’re running on diesel already and that’s not favourable for business.

“However, it’s a matter of time, as the investment driven Imo State government will surely come to our aid here.” She added that almost all the machines needed for the kick-off of the mill have arrived the country, as fixing and other necessary things are expected to be done before the official commissioning of the mill.

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