Agriculture in Nigeria has recorded continued decline in almost four consecutive quarters, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This trend signals impending food challenge.
The food crisis that may engulf Nigeria from this phenomenon can however be averted if the states take concrete steps to boost agriculture and expand the frontiers of agro-allied value chain.
This is what Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra state has done by signing a N1.4 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recently with a private investor – NKO Farms Limited – for improved production and processing of yam tubers and flour in the state.
The details, as revealed by Obiano, showed that the deal is for an all-year-round cultivation of yam and processing of yam flour for export. The project will be located on a 100-hectare farm acquired at Achalla in Awka North local government area, where a purpose-fit processing plant will also be established.
Being a private sector-driven venture, the investor would bear the greater financial commitment by contributing 75 per cent equity stake in the deal put at about N1.07 billion, while the state government would provide the remaining 25 per cent equity.
To show the seriousness attached to the MoU, the investor is required to mobilise to site within 90 days of execution of the MoU or risk having the land title revoked and automatically revert to the state government in case of default.
This eliminates the usual encumbrances that frustrate land-related development projects because of the unresolved retrogressive legislations surrounding land acquisition, ownership and disposure. The friendly attitude of the host community and the support of the local government combined, will add a fillip in motivating all the stakeholders in pursuit of the objective. It will also convince any Doubting Thomas that Obiano’s determination to develop Anambra into a world-class economy is not a figment of anyone’s imagination.
Thankfully, the investing company appears prepared for the project. The chairman/chief executive officer, Cordelia Udo, who spoke through the managing director, Chekwube Okwuonu, during the MoU signing ceremony at Governor’s Lodge, Awka, expressed the company’s determination to key into the tempo of the state government’s economic development agenda.
Obiano has made remarkable efforts in unlocking the vast rural and agricultural development opportunities in the state – spanning across the local government areas and involving virtually every sector. The effort by the state government to create a conducive environment for active private sector participation should spur indigenous entrepreneurs into looking homewards amid changes in the nation’s socio-economic landscape. Policy framework, security, land acquisition, funding, skill acquisition and co-operatives are some of the areas that have been addressed.
Earlier in the year, the state government unveiled a plan to invest N20 million in a livestock business piloted by the Federal Government Livestock Agricultural Production Project in partnership with the World Bank.
Obiano said the state government keyed into the initiative to overcome the challenge of non-availability of animal feeds which had hampered the growth of the sub-sector.
According to the spokesperson for the initiative, Winnie Ifeaoma Lai-Solarin, the suiting business environment earned Anambra the consideration for the N200 million World Bank credit “to enhance productivity and resilience policy value in the industry”.
Furthermore, the state government announced plans to boost spices production for local consumption and for export. Obiano disclosed during an inspection tour of Tiger Food Production Company, Obosi in Idemili North local government area that the venture would be executed under a joint partnership with agro-based investors already working in the state. His deputy, Nkem Okeke, who represented the governor at the visit, revealed that the state government would explore workable means of engaging farmers in the state in growing the raw materials needed for spices production.
Following the success recorded in rice production under the FADAMA initiative, cassava and sorghum production were added to the venture – being areas the state has vast comparative advantage in agriculture. The scheme was aided by a special irrigation known as Center Pivot Irrigation System (CPIS) – a technology capable of providing irrigation water to farmlands of about 100 hectares radius within minutes. Boreholes were sunk in Ogbaru, Ihiala and Ifite Ogwari to service the system, while the one at Ogboji would be serviced by surface flooding – to create all-year-round farming and food production.
These will flow into Obiano’s agric export programme to create jobs, boost internally generated revenue (IGR) and put Anambra in the league of top economies in Nigeria and beyond the African continent. The state government had launched an agricultural products export project meant for the European market in 2016 in partnership with ABX World – a Nigerian-based courier/cargo company. In co-operation with Arik Air and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL). The venture, entails airfreighting agro-allied exports from Anambra to Europe on a daily basis, has since been rejigged following default on the part of a party to the deal.
The yam production and processing project is the 43rd development investment initiatives signed by the Obiano administration totaling about $5.6 billion dollars, out of which eight are already while 14 are at different stages of development. The rest will take off in due course. The Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) which anchors government investment development projects will increase its tempo of activities towards achieving Gov. Obiano’s vision for Anambra.
While Nigeria incubates the gloomy prospect of massive food shortage arising from the dwindling agricultural production as shown by the nation’s statistics Bureau, Governor Obiano is changing the narrative of little or no foreign exchange earnings from export of agricultural and agro-based produce in Nigeria. He is also expanding the frontiers of diversification which position Anambra as a major agricultural producing and exporting state through which massive jobs are created and enhanced standard of living achieved.
• Egbuna, a development analyst, wrote from Nnewi