The Dangote Group, a leading manufacturer in the beverage and juice, says it has acquired about 400,000 hectares of land in Calabar, Cross River for its orchard farm.
Mr Pankaj Kumar, Managing Director, Dangote Foods Ltd, a subsidiary of Dangote Group, told journalists on Wednesday in Lagos that the farm was already in operation.
Kumar said that this would reduce the companyâ€™s dependence on imported concentrate juices, and produce adequate juice to feed the mills and also explore export market.
He said that the company had commenced processing of pineapple juice from the farm to feed its mills, adding that arrangements have also been concluded to start cultivation of other citrus.
According to him, most juice companies are 80 per cent dependant on foreign inputs for juice processing and 20 per cent local raw materials.He said that Dangote was at the verge of enriching its products with more local juices.
Kumar said that beside the creation of jobs for over 20,000 unemployed, the company would also reduce the freight of foreign exchange and contribute to the poverty alleviation programme.
He said that the group conducted a survey in 2003 and discovered that there were increased demands in the Nigeria market for juices and soft drinks.
Kumar said that the Federal Governmentâ€™s ban on importation of packaged juices and beverages in retail propelled Dangote group to invest massively in the sector.
â€œ These factors led to the entry of the company into the production of fruit juices and beverages in the country,â€ he said.
According to him, the company decided to partner with Tetra Pack for supply of equipment and maintenance of the ultra modern equipment to ensure production of quality products for the numerous customers.
â€œ The factory is equipped with modern machine with an investment worth over N10 billion with 13 production lines and over 649 direct workers,â€ he said.
Kumar, commenting on the huge waste of fruits in the market, said that such fruits were meant for table consumption and could not feed a mill for two weeks.
He said that most farmers practised subsistence farming which could not feed the mills for two weeks, urging the Federal Government to harmonise a hybrid seedlings that could give high yield and consistent taste.
He urged the federal government to reduce import duty on concentrate to enable the local industry to thrive.