Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina
The Federal Government is set to partner states to revive the moribund oil palm industry and make it one of the major revenue earners for the country, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has revealed.
Adesina disclosed government’s plan at the inauguration of the Calaro, Ibiae and Biase Oil Palm plantations that were handed over by the Cross River State Government to Wilmar International Ltd and PZ Cussons under its privatisation programme.
The minister said such a partnership would make states traditionally known for oil palm cultivation to revive the sector while at the same time challenging other states blessed with arable land to take to large scale cultivation of palm plantations.
He maintained that the federal government was concerned about changing the fortunes of agriculture and making it a worthwhile venture for both large and small scales investors, and appealed to business men to invest heavily in agriculture.
According to him, in the oil palm value chain many things were wrong that needed the enabling environment of government to succeed and the commitment of the private sector operators to correct; hence the Cross River example was a step in the right direction.
The goal of the oil palm value chain of the country, he added, was to increase oil production to satisfy local demand and eventually export as well as increase the productivity of farmers and create employment.
Special Adviser to the Cross River State Government on Investment Promotion, Mr. Gerald Adah, had earlier informed the gathering that a combined investment portfolio of various companies operating in the state in the last five years was now in excess of $2 billion.
He described the inauguration of the oil palm plantation as a major milestone in the vision of attracting foreign direct investment to the state and country adding that in the past two years, the state’s engagements with Wilmar has been in the aspects of acquisition of at least 50,000 hectares of agricultural land for primary production of oil palm as well as the establishment of an Oil Palm Processing/Refining Facility at an estimated project cost of $400 million.
He said while the proposed investment is valued at $400 million, the direct benefits accruing to the state include; employment of over 20,000 persons on an average payroll of N3.2 billion annually; out-growers support scheme for another 20,000 ha leveraging on the World Bank support, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in terms of standard schools and hospitals for employees, dependents and host communities.
Governor Liyel Imoke said the inauguration of Wilmar West Africa in the state would not only transform the economy of host communities but also enhance its production of oil palm, thus making the state the largest producer of oil palm in the country.
Imoke said the agricultural sector in the country today has been much maligned over the years and plagued with a lot of challenges related to enhancing the capacity of farmers and in recognition of the need to refocus the sector in the state and to increase productivity had to shift attention to identifying and attracting meaningful and constructive investment to the sector.
“We in the state believe this approach is critical to the realisation of our strategy as the top agrarian economy in the country as well ensuring the continued viability and sustainability of government and private estates in the state. Our intention is create a cluster of agricultural productivity unmatched by any other state in Nigeria. The partnership between Cross River State and Wilmar is the first major result of this strategic realignment if our agricultural industry.
“In recent years, we have witnessed significant increase in the global demand for oil palm. This singular commodity has a myriad of uses and applications for both domestic and industrial consumption and it accounts for a substantial proportion of the country’s agriculture production, thus leading the charge in the growth of the industry in Nigeria”, Imoke said.
Commissioner for Agriculture in Cross River State, Mr. James Aniyom, said the state government had made it clear that government would no longer be involved in the management of agricultural enterprisers but to rather produce the necessary conducive environment for the private sector to thrive in the state.
He said the government has resolved to foster partnerships with the private sector in order for the private sector to not only take over government estates but to ensure the continuous sustainability of the estates, thereby providing jobs in the communities.
“We are encouraging the private sector to set up processing plants in the state. The state would help such investors in the acquisition of land and would provide tax holidays to those investors. Cross River State has vast arable land and we have not cultivated up to 40 per cent,” he said.
Chairman of Wilmar International, Mr. Kuok, said the project is part of a joint venture with PZ Cussons to revive the oil palm industry in Nigeria, by investing in the entire palm oil value chain, including plantation, palm oil mill, refinery, among others.
“Such a project would bring enormous benefit to the country by creating employment and saving tremendous foreign exchange. So far we have acquired 35,000 hectares of land and we will complete the development in about four years. We are willing to develop as much land as the government can give us”, he stated.