Nigeria is making frantic efforts to ensure that agriculture and allied services play a key role in its quest for economic and revenue diversification.
This stems from the enormous negative impact of a drop in oil prices on the economy.
To support the current diversification drive and mitigate the impact of oil price, Akwa Ibom State, located in the South-South of Nigeria, has demonstrated a commitment to developing the country’s agricultural sector in such a way that the private sector earns a modest return on investment while the government generates revenue and meet with the ever-growing demand for food.
In a state broadcast on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom State recently, Governor Udom Emmanuel said: “We are diversifying our economy and placing emphasis on agriculture. We are producing food to feed our people through our investments in agriculture. Akwa Hatchery is working and producing, the Cassava mills are in operation across the State.”
The agriculture and food sufficiency sector has been given a very high priority by Governor Emmanuel.
His objective has always been to ensure that food is readily available for his people to put on their table and also to diversify from petrodollar to an agro-based state economy.
To this end, as part of the private sector-led investment drive of the state government, a lot of projects have been undertaken, many others are being pursued. For instance, an investor is embarking on a multi-billion-naira Coconut Refinery project in the state which will soon be commissioned with a capacity to employ more than 5000 people directly and indirectly.
As part of the agricultural value-chain and backward integration to service the Coconut Refinery with raw input from local farmers, the state had embarked on the cultivation of 11,000 hectares of Coconut Plantation. This is strategic thinking.
To also diversify the economy of the state to wean his people from reliance on crude oil money, the Akwa Ibom State government has registered 4,920 rice farmers in the state who are producing rice for local consumption and sales to other parts of Nigeria and the West Coast.
The state is also boosting its comparative advantage in growing Cassava with the cultivation of at least 1,450 hectares of Cassava Plantation in five local governments. Animal production and husbandry are also part of the overall agricultural policy of the Emmanuel-led administration.
To ensure that the state is self-sufficient in dairy and meat production, the administration of Governor Emmanuel imported over 200 highbred cows from Mexico; the cows are currently at Uruan.
Not many people know and not many state governments do this but there is the Government Green House, along the Victor Attah International Airport road, which has been producing vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers that were not hitherto grown in the state. His administration has established 22 hectares of improved cocoa plantation in six LGAs namely, Ini, Essien Udim, Mkpat Enin, Ikono, Abak, and Ukanafun.
In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the state government commenced the sale of oil palm seedlings at a subsidised rate.
Akwa Ibom State is known to have one of the best flavours of cocoa in the country. Governor Emmanuel has resuscitated cocoa production through the establishment of Cocoa Development Committee chaired by the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo.
He also flagged off the Cocoa Maintenance Scheme to improve the yield of cocoa from the present 300kg/ha to 1,500kg/ha between 2016 and 2019.
Governor Emmanuel has provided support for 8,200 cocoa farmers to cultivate 30,000 hectares of Cocoa. He has trained 480 youths on Cocoa Maintenance Scheme. Experts have been brought in to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and the technical committee to teach Cocoa farmers conventional agronomic practices to improve cultivation of cocoa in the state to earn foreign exchange.
Apart from cocoa, 6,000 hectares of land has been designated for the cultivation of cassava. There are cassava multiplication farms in Ikot Okudom in Eket LGA, Ikot Ekan in Abak and Ishiet Ekim in Uruan to teach cluster groups best practices in cassava production. The state government has approved counterpart funds for FADAMA 111 Programme.
Under this programme, cassava is targeted for cultivation annually between 2016 and 2019. The state is expected to cultivate 6,000ha of cassava in 2019 thereby moving the present cluster to core status. In addition, the governor has approved the establishment of three new cassava processing factories in the three senatorial districts in the state namely: Ibesikpo Asutan LGA (Nung Udoe, Eket LGA (Ikot Okudom) and Abak LGA (Ikot Ekang). This will reduce the cost of processing cassava into other derivatives such as fofo, garrison, and pallets as well as their prices significantly.
Governor Emmanuel has approved the reactivation and management of the defunct state premier fisheries at Obio Eket, Nsit Ubium by Merlot Anny Limited.
To put an end to capital flight from the state, an ultra-modern poultry hatchery complex, which will produce at least 520 day-old chicks per day has commenced operation at Mbiaya in Uruan.
The hatchery, which comprises a feed mill and a breeder farm, has commenced production. It is expected that the hatchery will attain its full production capacity of 520,000 day-old chicks per week.
“Akwa Ibom State government is doing a lot in the area of agriculture. The state is harnessing the potentials in the sector to ensure food security for the country,” said Deborah Adesua Ameli, chief operating officer, Agroyields – an agricultural and commodity trading company.
“The state is providing the enabling environment to support the entire agricultural value chain,” Ameli said.
From the Coconut Refinery to the Akwa Ibom Rice and other economic projects, the administration of Emmanuel has clearly spelt out his priority for agriculture and food sufficiency.
The state’s industrialisation programme has been linked to agriculture because many industries use agricultural by-products. Hence the massive cocoa production in the state is to produce cocoa for export and having it processed to produce beverages like Bournvita, Ovaltine etc. Akwa Ibom state is also into massive baking oil production that is novel in the western coast of Nigeria.
It is the only state in this country that is actually going into that production, and of course this will to a large extent impact greatly on the downstream effect on pharmaceuticals and the downstream effect on other allied industries.
Also the state is going into massive banana and tomatoes production which can be canned. So the current drive in the area of industrialization is not without a major contribution by the agric sub-sector. The whole thing is interwoven in one.
The journey of people of the state to Jos and other states in the North just to buy tomatoes has been greatly reduced because of the tremendous effort made in the cultivation of tomatoes and the harvesting.
Many farmers and dealers now frequently visit the green house to purchase the state’s tomatoes. By the time the project is in full blown, the state will succeed in putting a permanent stop to the journey up north.
The target is to have 10 of those one-hectare green houses. In partnership with Ibom Agricom, the target of the state government is to hit five metric tonnes per day in rice production by massively cultivating 100,000 hectares.
This will flood the market with Akwa Ibom-made rice; one that is planted, processed and packaged in Akwa Ibom. Through his efforts, the price of garri has been brought down; rice is in abundance and many people have been made to stop going to Jos to buy tomatoes. He has been making Akwa Ibom to be food sufficient.
The administration of Governor Emmanuel believes that the state, which is blessed with abundant natural resources, fertile land and good climate, can produce sufficient foods to feed her population and provide a sustainable raw materials base for her burgeoning industries.
In just four years, the administration’s agricultural sector catalogue of development has been overwhelming. It has developed 11,000 hectares of coconut plantation; 2,100 hectares of cassava plantation in 15 LGAs (FADAMA); 48,000 rice farmers registered for CBN anchor borrowers scheme; 450 youths were trained on cocoa maintenance and 500,000 improved cocoa seedlings were raised for distribution to farmers at highly subsidized rate across the 28 cocoa producing local government areas.
The states established hatchery called Akwa Prime Hatchery produces 10,000 day-old chicks per week and there has been free distribution of improved corn seeds to farmers. The state has commenced the construction of vegetable greenhouses and the cattle ranch and has cultivated over 1,200 hectares of rice; constructed of 33 cassava micro-processing mills and training of 300 youths under the Graduate Unemployment Youth Scheme (GUYS).
Each of the youth will be empowered with N1million to embark on any agricultural enterprise. The state has also constructed the Tractor Hiring Enterprise (AEHE) centre; refurbish the cassava processing factories at Ikot Okudom, Eket LGA; Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo/Asutan LGA and Ikot Ekang in Abak LGA and leased to private operators for the production of high quality garri, odourless fufu, and cassava flour.
Similarly, the state has procure 600,000 bags of fertilizer for farmers in the state; distributed 500 citrus seedlings, 600 hybrids plantain suckers and 1,000 pineapple suckers to farmers; established a large hybrid rubber nursery at Ebighi Anwa, Okobo L.G.A in partnership with the Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria, for distribution to rubber farmers at highly subsidized rate and establishment of demonstration plots on various agricultural technologies for the transfer of improved technologies to farmers through Akwa Ibom Agricultural Development Programme (AKADEP).
The state also established three model villages for production, processing and packaging of Vitamin A products; partnered with World Bamboo Organization for Bamboo development; procure and distribute of 30,000 hybrid plantain suckers to 348 farmers; install maize preservation/shelling machine at Nung Udoe; create Kiado goat multiplication scheme (Pioneer multiplication site developed at Nsit Atai); construct 35 boreholes as part of infrastructural benefits of FADAMA at Sawah rice production, Nnung Obong and set up of Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency.
The governor said he is roaring to do much more in his second term in office.