John Shiklam in Kaduna
Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele weekend performed the ground breaking ceremony for the establishment of a Potato Farm and Processing facility worth $120 million in Manchok, Kaura local government area of the state.
The project jointly initiated by the state government and Vicampro Farms Limited is said to be the biggest potato plant in sub-Saharan Africa, cultivating 10,000 hectares of land and is expected to generate 30,000 job opportunities for the nation’s teeming unemployed youths.
Speaking during the ceremony, El-Rufai said “the project is very important to the state Kaduna as it will create jobs and stimulate a chain of economic activities that will impact positively on the economic development of the state and the nation. Vicampro is not only going to process potato that will serve local demand. “
“It is also primed for export of its products, thereby earning foreign exchange for the country.”
He noted that Kaduna state is blessed with abundant natural resources, adding that the government had introduced flexible policies that will encourage investors. He said with the flexible policies in place, Kaduna is becoming a much easier place to do business as the state government’s efforts have already started yielding positive results.
“We have Olam of Singapore investing $150 million to build the largest integrated Poultry and Feed Mill in Nigeria. Similarly, Dangote Group is investing in a 7,000-hectare tomato farm and a processing plant in Kaduna state”, he said.
According to El-Rufai, Kaduna needs such investments in order to create wealth and jobs so as to tackle the menace of poverty that has blighted too many lives and inclined many to succumb to machinations of division, hate and mischief.
He called on host communities in the area to be peaceful as no investor will want to do business in an atmosphere of insecurity and urged them to support Vicampro Farms Limited for the project to become a reality.
The CBN governor, Mr. Emefiele, in his remarks, noted that Nigeria is currently faced with a series of headwinds, such as the over 50 per cent decline in the price of crude, the impact of which has reflected in the GDP growth projections for 2016.
He said it was imperative that principal agencies of government at the federal and state level continue to work hand in hand towards diversifying the economy and create an enabling environment for further investment by firms such as Vicampro.
The CBN governor maintained that agriculture remains a key catalyst for reducing unemployment and driving growth in Nigeria.
“As you all may be aware, four commodities namely Rice, Wheat, Fish and Sugar together account for an annual food import bill of N1.4 trillion, even though we have the capacity to produce these commodities locally. Furthermore, not-withstanding our position as a major producer of potatoes in Africa, we still import close to 40,000 tonnes of processed potatoes from countries like South Africa.
“With the decline in foreign exchange earnings, we can no longer afford to support continued importation of these items. Our current situation has also made it imperative for the Central Bank to work towards supporting programs that will enable greater cultivation and production of key agricultural commodities in Nigeria.
“I am glad to note that the Kaduna State Government is working closely with the CBN through the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme. This programme is designed to support small holders farmers by providing them with the requisite training, tools and funds at single digit interest rates, which will enable improved cultivation of key agricultural items such as rice, maize, cotton and wheat” Emefiele said.
He assured that the CBN remains committed to working with the Kaduna state government in supporting small farmers and processors and governor El-Rufai for taking assiduous steps towards encouraging increased investment in the agriculture and agri-business industry in the state.
The CBN governor also commended Vicampro Farms Limited for the steps taken towards ensuring the potato facility is eventually realised.