Food security: Firming up process through processing zones

Food security: Firming up process through processing zones
15 March 2020

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to establish agro-allied industry in each state of the federation in a bid to achieve food security and stimulate economic activities. Taiwo Hassan writes

Despite the fact that agriculture contributes 22 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the country has continued to face the challenges of meeting domestic food requirements, providing raw materials for manufacturing sector and exporting of quality commodities required for a successful market participation.

In fact, the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledges the need to scale up Nigeria’s agricultural production and provide a more efficient fund to market value chain.

According to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, “we must improve patronage of locally made food, bridge the gap in industrial skills and innovation, address the causes of access to finance and resolve multiple taxation and others, if we are ready as a country to leapfrog on our agricultural value chain.”

In line with government’s pursuit of sustainable food security in the country, the vice president was quoted as saying that relevant committees across the government were implementing various policies and initiatives that address key areas of concerns in agriculture, in order to achieve agro-allied industrialisation base.  

Some of these plans including the made-in-Nigeria for export programme and it seeks to fast track the development of modern export oriented special economic zone across the country to promote export and investment in the processing of agriculture commodities such as oil palm, cassava, cotton, sugar, diary among others, and as well as the establishment of special agro-processing zones across the country. 

Agro-allied industry

While speaking on government’s effort to establish agro-allied industry in each state of the federation in Abuja recently, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, confirmed that the ministry was saddled with the responsibility of making this laudable task a reality. 

Katagum explained this during a meeting with a delegation from the Amana Farmers and Grains Suppliers Association of Nigeria in Abuja, saying that the plan to establish agro-allied industry in each senatorial district in the country was part of government’s effort to achieve food security and stimulate economic activities.

The minister said the Federal Government would give necessary support towards the development of cotton, textile, and garment sectors of the economy.

For her, the textile industry in the last few years have been facing various challenges, which resulted to the closure of over 150 textile firms in Nigeria with a loss of over two million jobs.

Farmers and processors in the sector have had to deal with low quality seeds, rising operating cost and weak sales due to high energy cost of running factories, smuggling of textile goods, and poor access to finance.

According to the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, smuggling of textiles alone is estimated to have cost the nation an import bill of over $4 billion.

The trade minister said: “Government is very much interested in growing the economy, looking at other areas like cotton, textile, garment, grains, tomatoes, we need to add value.

“Mr. President has directed that in every senatorial district, we should establish an agro-allied industry and we know some industries exist but you can assist us in identifying the agro-allied industries that will be suited for you.”

She added: “My appeal is that there are critical lessons we have learnt on the border closure. Let us not go back, let us continue with farming even if we found oil in any part of the country.”

AfDB’s $500m loan 

However, in line with Federal Government’s agenda to establish agro-industrial zones across the country, the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced that it had earmarked $500 million loan for the development of four agro-industrial zones in Nigeria to boost food security.

AfDB President, Akinwunmi Adesina, who made this known during a courtesy visit on the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt, Clifford Ordia, in Abuja, recently, said the loan was made available to the four agro-industrial zones in the country following discussions with the Federal Government, which started in April 2019 on the loan.

Adeshina, represented by his Senior Special Adviser on Industrialisation, Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, said the loan was known as special agro industrial process.

He said it would be similar to the free trade zone, where thousands of direct and indirect jobs would be created for Nigerians across the country.

“We have been engaged with the Federal Government since April 2019. One of the standout issues in the discussion is the issue of agriculture.

“There is something called special agro industrial process. It’s similar to the free trade zone. We are in 15 different countries.

“The idea of the zone is for dedicated agribusiness. Africa is lagging behind. Farmers work hard, but they get very little. When the President of the bank was the Minister of Agriculture, he started about 14 of these zones. A lot was spent. Since he left as minister, nothing has happened since then.

“The bank has advanced $500 million to beef up these zones in the next few years. The private sector and others are pledging support. These funds will be used to provide roads and other infrastructure.

“We are tired of people laughing at us in Nigeria. This project is working in other countries. It can also work here. The AfDB is there to support Nigeria.

“Our goal is that, in the next two years, we will begin to see results. Every state will be affected. Nigeria shouldn’t be importing food. We should be at the forefront of exporting food to other parts of the world,” he said.

As the Federal Government plans to establish agro-industrial zones in the 36 states of the federation, there is no doubt the plan will positively buoy agriculture if well implemented, as well as guarantees food security.