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Emefiele asks glucose, starch importers to look to Rivers’ $12m cassava processing plant

…As Wike unveils loans to medium scale farmers

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has urged big manufacturing companies that seek foreign exchange to import glucose and starch to now look to the Rivers State’s $12m (N5.8Bn) Cassava Processing plant, which came on stream on Thursday, May 27, 2021, in Oyigbo, near Port Harcourt. This is as Nigerian government stands to garner over $16 million tax from cassava value-chain.

The CBN boss spoke at the commissioning ceremony, which attracted the Minister of Agriculture, Shell, the Rivers State government, and many others.

In his speech, Emefiele said most manufacturing companies today that import either glucose, starch or any other cassava by-products would be happy to source their demands from the newly flagged off complex.

The plant began many years with speed but went into lull as bitter political rivalry in the state took a fiercer turn. Rivers State has 70 percent equity in the plant but now seeks to reduce to mere 10 percent.

The state recently frowned at the CBN and called the apex bank out for allegedly politicizing agriculture by not approving N5 billion loan request. This was soon approved and the state governor commended the CBN for supporting agriculture, even as the governor is asking for more loan facilities to do more.

With this effort, Emefiele noted that what was mere potential have become reality towards developing cassava into various by-products that are needed for industrial development in Nigeria.

As the plant comes on stream, the CBN governor explained that companies like Nestle that import starch and glucose should now begin to procure these raw materials from Nigeria to enable the country save foreign exchange.

Speaking on behalf of Osagie Okumbor, the country chair of Shell Petroleum and Development Company, Igo Weli, general manager, external affairs, said experts have said that the local value-addition to cassava via local manufacturing and processing could potentially unlock about $16 million in tax to the government.

Weli stated: “With the Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited, Shell hopes to support the Rivers people to earn much more revenue from the cassava value chain as the company utilises leading technology to process and create more added value from this crop.

“Today, we have the Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited that will process cassava into high quality cassava flour via a unique split processing technology based on the operating principle of taking the factory to the farm gates rather than having the farmer bring the cassava tubers to the factory gate.”

Speaking, Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, revealed plans to create a pool of seed capital to support cassava farmers in the state willing to hit up to one hectare of cassava only. He said this is to encourage massive cultivation of cassava across the state.

The governor stated the willingness of his administration to encourage proper cultivation of the vast fallow land available in all local government areas of the state to ensure that the processing plant does not lack raw materials.

He said the seed money would not be administered like previous grants offered by the state government, but will be given to genuine farmers after being verified and encouraged to increase production volume of cassava in the state.

“The other day, I went to see one of my friends. I went to his farm of over 56 hectare of land. He is trying to cultivate cassava and I was very impressed.

“And I told him that government would identify and verify those genuinely involved and are registered as cassava producers. Apply to us that you want to farm one hectare of land for only cassava.

“Government will give them seed money to continue farming cassava so that there will be no problem of cassava supply to this plant.”

Governor Wike explained that it is no more fashionable for youths and leaders of local government councils to be content raising revenues from stickers. He urged them to avail themselves of opportunities offered by the cassava processing plant.

He solicited for more loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria to consolidate the visible gain that has been made already in boosting agriculture in the state.

The governor assured that any of such loans from the banks will be paid off before he leaves office as he has already made a commitment not to leave any burden for his successor.

The governor commended Shell Petroleum and Development Company (SPDC) and the Dutch government for their courage to partner with the state government to actualise the project and assured that the company will be allowed to operate as a profiting making private venture.

“So, government will make sure that we do not own more than 10 percent of equity shares. This will enable the company to run profitably, make revenue, pay taxes and create employment.”

Inaugurating the facility, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the plant has become a direct response to addressing the challenges of food security in Nigeria.

He said his ministry has continued to engage bakers on the need to embrace import substitution of wheat and flour by incorporating 10 percent of cassava flour in their baking activities and the Rivers State cassava processing plant is now available to satisfy that need.

“On behalf of over 15 thousand registered farmers in this state and others in neighbouring states, I thank you for this project. Rivers State Government has become pacesetter in this collective effort of making agriculture work in Nigeria”, the minister said.

“I wish to announce my support by giving cassava farmers with high quality 10 thousand stems of cassava cuttings from the National Root Crops Research Institute and will be delivered to the governor as soon as position.”

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