THISDAY SPECIAL RELEASE
By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
The governments of Lagos and Kebbi States have signed a joint venture agreement for the establishment of a modern and commercially viable rice mill complex aimed at increasing Nigeria’s capacity to grow and produce rice for local consumption and enhancing the country’s food sufficiency.
The complex, which would be located in Lagos, has the capacity to process and mill 20 tonnes of rice per hour, just as the finished product would be known as “Laskeb rice”.
According to Lagos State sources, the two state governments had over the past few months worked closely with Access Bank and a Mexican farming conglomerate, San Carlos, a company that has the requisite experience and modern technology for processing and milling of rice in commercial quantity.
“It is expected that this joint venture project would serve as a booster to the federal government’s reforms agenda especially in agriculture and save Nigeria as much as $3 billion annually by way of import substitution,” said a senior source with the state government.
It stated that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in relation to the establishment and operation of the rice mill complex was recently signed between the three principal stakeholders, Lagos State Government, Kebbi State Government and San Carlos Nigeria Limited.
Access Bank as the lead banker and adviser in the project, would also have responsibility for bringing other credible investors into the project.
The bank had served as the lead financial institution for major projects in the country including the Eko Atlantic City, and lately, the proposed Fourth Mainland Bridge.
An informed source also told THISDAY that there are plans for a Chinese firm to be brought into the partnership, adding that Lagos and Kebbi States might soon extend their collaboration in agriculture to animal husbandry.
According to the source, the milling project, at least as far as rice is concerned, lays a vital plank for Lagos and Kebbi States’ ambitions to become food sufficient as well as diversify their economic base.
For the stakeholders, gains of the investment include a guaranteed return for the JV, assurance of private sector confidence in the business climate, and job and wealth creation for Nigerian citizens.
Industry watchers believe the project would equally help to boost the diversification of the Nigerian economy especially now that the federal government is working on strategies to develop other sectors as part of its strategy to reduce the country’s dependence on oil.
They commended the governments of Lagos and Kebbi for bringing up initiatives that would help to uplift the living standards of the people.
The project is in consonance with the objectives of the private public partnership (PPP) programme of the Lagos State Government through which it reaches out for strategic support from the private sector to develop the economy of the state.