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FG, private sector in agribusiness partnership

FG, private sector in agribusiness partnership

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh

 The Federal Government is partnering financial institutions and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector for the development of the largest agro-industrial hub in West Africa.

Investors in the agricultural sector are entering into various forms of partnership with the Federal Government to develop a 15,000-hectare agro-industrial hub in Nigeria.

According to investors in the project, the hub, which is located in the Federal Capital Territory, will attract both local and foreign players and is expected to be the biggest agribusiness park in West Africa.

It was learnt that work had commenced on the project as the Federal Government, in partnership with private developers, had started constructing access roads in the allocated settlement in Kwali, Abuja.

It was also gathered that the Bank of Agriculture was being recapitalised by the government to provide funds for farmers interested in investing in the project, as the hub would attract over 3,000 youths to manage different farms in the park.

The Head, Specialised Assets Group, Aso Savings and Loans Plc, Mr. Enesi Makoju, stated that his firm was partnering the government in the project and that over 300 subscribers had bought into it.

Makoju said, “One of the platforms being put in place to create opportunities for farmers is the creation of what we call an agribusiness hub or an agro-industrial park. We have 15,000 hectares of land already set aside by the FCT some years ago for the creation of the farming settlement area in Kwali.

“We are privileged to be financial advisors to the developers of this project called Prime Soil Limited. Some level of infrastructural development has been done and there is a tarred road that takes you to the farm. But there is still quite a lot of the land area that requires additional development and we are working on that.”

He added, “Quite a number of subscribers have bought some of the land we have available. So, this is the initial stage of a plan that was initiated by the minister of agriculture for the creation of an agro-industrial hub that will be the biggest in West Africa and probably one of the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The intention is to set aside about 15,000 hectares of this land, put in place infrastructure such as irrigation, power and road network and then attract various levels of agro-industrial investors that will have major agric players in the centre of it. The outskirts of the hub will be generally set aside for other small and medium-sized farmers as well female and youth farmers.”

Makoju said his bank would continue to work with the ministry to bring the project to fruition as the financial institution had invested over N500m in the park.

“We have put in well over half a billion naira into this project so far and the developers can attest to that. And as we speak, we have well over 300 subscribers for this project,” he said.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the government would join hands with private sector players in the project.

Ogbeh said, “We will join hands for the infrastructure development of this hub; we are quickly looking at building dams and lakes around here because from now on agriculture doesn’t have to be a rain fed business. We need to grow food all year round and keep the food fresh. So, we are looking at f between N20bn and N30bn for this hub in the next three to four years.

“Some of that money may not come from the budget but from support funds, from levies charged on certain imports and we also expect the private sector to play its role. Also, the big players will come, both foreign and local. And the essence is to provide an avenue and protect investors here, as well as turn it into a comfortable living environment.

“The point also is that young people and women have been asking, ‘you say let’s farm but where is the land?’ Now, this is the beginning and we hope to extend it to many states across the country. This is the largest, probably in West Africa or sub-Saharan Africa.”

On the value chain for the park, the minister said it would have all agricultural produce, adding that the government was working hard to ensure that both foreign and local varieties of farm outputs would be made available at the park.

Ogbeh said, “Virtually everything in the agric value chain will be here. There will be vegetable farming for local consumption and export, processing companies, rice mills, oil mills, shea butter processing outfits, abattoirs and livestock management firms, chicken farms and a lot more.

“The time is coming when this whole business of cattle wondering around will stop and we may not even allow anybody to move live cows around again.”

He added, “There will be banks here as well. In fact, the point is that this will become one big place to drive to in order to get whatever you need as far as agriculture is concerned in Nigeria and the African continent. We are concluding our negotiations and once that’s done, the bulldozers will start rolling in for the commencement of heavy construction work.”

Ogbeh stated that hundreds of foreign and local investors had showed interest in the project and they had started visiting the site where the hub would be located.

On the sustainability of the park, he expressed the hope that the agricultural road map recently unveiled by the present government would be adopted and followed through by subsequent administrations.

He said, “We hope that whatever administration that comes after now will have the courage to do what we did. When we came, we said we would not engage in any policy somersault. If the policy is good and is working, carry on with it. They may want to adjust a few things, but if the plan is good, why change it?”

Ogbeh stated that the park would employ about 3,000 youths when fully operational.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Bank of Agriculture, Mr. Danbala Danju, said the BOA was being recapitalised to effectively serve the funding needs of investors who would wish to invest in the hub.

He said, “There has been a focus on agriculture by the present administration and we are sure that very soon, this hub will become operational for agribusiness on the continent. Before the end of this quarter, the BOA will be recapitalised so as to effectively support this drive.

“What we are trying to do with the recapitalisation of the BOA is to make funds readily available because there is a huge demand for investments in agriculture but the resources are limited. Also, we are going to adhere to single digit interest rates as we support farmers with loans.”

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