By Cecilia Ijuo
Abuja – The Federal Government on Monday in Abuja, began the process of implementing establishment of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) across the six geopolitical zones in the country.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, at a two day Inception Workshop for development of the project organised in collaboration with the African Development Bank(AfDB), said it was long overdue.
Nanono said SAPZs would boost value addition to agriculture, improve competitiveness and act as potential for sustainable economic development.
He stressed that the project would help reduce food importation, guarantee food security and nutrition at low and stable prices and boost revenue from agricultural exports.
Nanono further said that SAPZs would create wealth for rural farming communities, sustainable jobs especially for the youth, boost rural livelihoods while reducing crime and rural-urban drift.
The minister noted that for the project to succeed some measures needed to be put into consideration.
“Africa it is said controls 65 per cent of arable land and Nigeria has over 30 per cent and it tells us of the opportunities we have to attract foreign investments to the sector.
“Between July and August you see green everywhere. If the issue is green then we have no problem but we have the issue of research of good seeds, agricultural mechanisation to improve yield and extension workers.
“Unless we have these issues right we cannot improve agriculture.
“This country has a future in agriculture so we have to be serious.
“The project will create wealth, reduce political and social tension and create jobs,” he said.
He said the meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina in April 2019, led to the momentum in the development of SAPZs in Nigeria.
He said the AfDB had, over the past 10 months, worked with agro-industrial development stakeholders, including the Federal Government, some state governments and international investors in developing a road map for development of SAPZs.
According to him, the initiative focuses on priority commodities including those that top the list of food imports into Nigeria and have potential to provide quality employment to a large number of people especially youths.
He noted that when fully actualised, the project would go a long way in lifting not less than 100 million people out of poverty.
He added that the scheme had the potential to boost export revenue through agro-processing value addition.
Nanono further noted that the project would revive past, valuable agro-industrial assets.
The minister said the project would be in two phases with development of four zones in the first phase.
He pointed out that for quick impact, the project would be situated around brownfields, that was existing or already programmed projects with good potential and infrastructure.
He also pointed out that the project was aimed at promoting competitive processing capacity through promotion of private sector investment among others.
Nanono said the Federal Government with the financial and technical assistance of AfDB and host state governments would facilitate infrastructure to attract private sector investors into the Zones.
He urged stakeholders at the workshop to facilitate further discussions on the development of SAPZs in line with Federal Government agenda.
Also speaking, Prof. Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Senior Special Adviser on Industrialisation, AfDB, said the bank was fully committed to actualisation of the project.
He said the project, which the bank was willing to commit about 500 million dollars to in the form of loan, would be led by government and the private sector while the bank would provide technical support.
He said the project would among other things, “enhance productivity using improved technology, reduce cost of operation, post-harvest losses, ensure value addition, create wealth for rural farmers, sustainable hope and reduced insecurity.”
He also noted that the project “would be an evolutionary process for the sector.
“Between July and October, we will agree on funding. Money will be released and we will commence as soon as possible’’.
The don said the political class and other stakeholders had bought into the project and were ready to fully support its implementation.