The management of Multi-Trex Integrated Foods Plc has enjoined the Federal and State Governments to pay more attention to value addition by encouraging indigenous cocoa processors in the country.
The call was made by the Chief Executive of the company, Dimeji Owofemi, when students of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, Senior course 35 paid a visit to the factory in Ogun state led the state government officials.
He said because the army is saddled with responsibility for the security of the nation which includes food security, it is an opportunity to express the desire that the survival of the country is assured by all.
“Government needs at this point to think seriously on where our interest as a country lies, whether in empowering the unemployed or enhancing employment in European countries, whereas countries like Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire that we can compare ourselves with are having more factories in capacity terms than Nigeria, because they impose taxes on raw cocoa beans exported out of their countries,” he said.
In his remark, leader of the student delegation and Director of the Department of Maritime Warfare, Commodore Kenneth Ati-John, said that the visit was linked to the theme of their study tour which is “diversifying the economy for national development.”
“You can see that this company is positively contributing to the economy not just of the state but also of the country. They have been able to process cocoa from the basic level to finished products which is not common in Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, value addition has become the way to go for Nigeria’s economy because if the country keeps exporting only raw commodities it will continue to generate only a fraction of the revenue but when value is added there is a certainty of earning more income and revenue.
He described the of state-of-the-art facilities at the factory as positive and encouraging, noting that such high standards could only be found in big corporations like Cadbury and a few others in the country.
Stating the enormous opportunity in the sub-sector the chief executive of multitrex revealed Nigeria currently has a 96,000 metric tonnes capacity worth about $350 million in annual turn-over and is entirely operated by Nigerians through 11 indigenous companies.
Owofemi said that the time has come for a paradigm shift from exporting anything raw including crude petroleum to value addition.
“Today we don’t have any refineries as I can see and without cocoa processing we will continue to export our raw commodities and we know that in the days when cocoa board existed there were no such activities,” he said.
He also noted that the export of the raw cocoa beans, which is needed by the indigenous processing factories was dominated by foreigners who are again rewarded by the government with Export Expansion Grant (EEG).
“The minimum employment generated by the smallest cocoa processing factory is at least 150 people, here in and here at Multitrex we have invested N15.4 billion already in this factory with 213 people in our direct employ and over 2000 in indirect employment,” he said.
He urged the government to provide opportunities for processing companies to thrive by cutting down the barrage of taxes and reviewing the tenement rate which went up from N400, 000 to N5 million from the year before.
“We also want the government to look into our request for 5,000 hectares of land to grow cocoa and also look at our peculiar to extend the tenure beyond 5-10 which is not adequate to grow cocoa. If our application is granted we can create gainful employment for up to 10,000 people,” he said.
The Ogun state Permanent Secretary Bureau of Political Affairs and Administration, Oluremi Obayomi, remarked that Multitrex Plc clearly stands out as an example that Nigeria can diversify its economy and end the over-dependence on oil and gas.
He assured the management that the Government of Ogun state was already looking into the issue of land tenure which was raised by the company’s C