By JIMOH BABATUNDE
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Adesina Akinwumi, has called on foreign and local investors to consider the current scientific best practices, availability of land, and good climatic conditions as reasons to support and invest in agriculture in Nigeria.
Akinwumi made the call at a meeting organised by the ministry as part of the just concluded World Economic Forum in Abuja, where state governors and private sector industry leaders declared their support for, and readiness to implement the Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZ) scheme.
The scheme established by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under the Transformation Agenda of the present administration is aimed at drastically reducing post-harvest food wastage as well as creating job opportunities that would develop the rural countryside.
It is also designed to boost food production and drastically reduce Nigeria’s dependence on food import while creating business and job opportunities for investors. Today, the zones are located within 14 states or corridors to provide services and interventions to mitigate risks at every step of the value chain by linking players from inputs to end markets to streamline the process for investors.
The 14 states and corridors are Anambra/Enugu Bayelsa, Benue; Borno, Cross River, Kano Kogi, Kwara Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Rivers, Taraba and Kebbi/Sokoto.
Adesina told participants that Nigeria has transformed from largely agriculture to one where agribusiness will dictate the pace of economic activities.
He said that a tremendous transformation has taken place in the sector since the government launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011, which set a target of adding 20 million metric tons of food to the domestic output, and about 75 percent (15.7 million metric tons) was achieved about by 2013.
Dr. Patrick Kormawa, Country Director for United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Abuja, noted that Nigeria is reputed to be the largets producer of cassava, yam and food sorghum worldwide, at 54 million metric tons (MMT), 38 MMT and 6.9 MMT respectively, while the country places second and third globally in citrus and ground nut production.
Yet, according to him, processing remains rudimentary, with post-harvest losses for various commodities remaining high as these are associated with inability to meet market requirements.
To overcome the challenges to agro-processing, Komowa, said provision of support for infrastructure has been identified as a key intervention that requires urgency.
Kogi State governor, Captain Idris Wada, expressed the readiness of his state to ensure the operation of the zone allocated to it.
In Kogi, the Alape SCPZ largely focuses on providing a conducive business environment for the production and processing of cassava and additional crops.
Under the partnership arrangement between the federal and state governments, the Niger State government has prioritised infrastructure investment, actively seeking public-private partnerships (PPP) for the SCPZ in that state, with the state planning to invest $103 million in zone development in addition to any investments through partnerships with the private sector.