The Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) programme, which was recently launched by the Nigerian government, could be a game changer for the country’s agriculture.
The essence of the initiative is to catalyse agricultural development through industrialisation. It is a government-enabled and private sector-led initiative that will mobilise private sector investment to develop the agricultural value chains for selected strategic crops in Nigeria, including maize, cassava, rice, soybean, cocoa, poultry, and livestock products.
“A new dawn for Nigeria and Africa. The SAPZ is a major step forward to our desire for food security, food sufficiency, and food sustainability,” Bloomfield Agricultural Development Company Ltd, an agro-consultancy, said in a tweet.
SAPZs are agro-based spatial development initiatives, designed to concentrate agro-processing activities within areas of high agricultural potential, to boost productivity and integrated production, processing, and marketing of agricultural commodities.
The zones are purposely built with shared facilities to enable agricultural producers, processors, aggregators, and distributors to operate in the same vicinity, reducing transaction costs and sharing business development services for increased productivity and competitiveness.
This sort of cluster, according to experts, will promote interdependence, and enhance productivity and competitiveness.
They said bringing adequate infrastructure such as energy, water, road, and ICT to rural areas will contribute to their social and economic development. It will also help reduce rural-urban migration.
“A processed cashew nut is worth five times the price of raw cashew. Farmers sell cheap at the local market because there’s no premium market for their produce. Our crops perish because we do not have processing factories close by that can take them almost immediately from the farm. It costs more to move a trailer from Maiduguri to Lagos than a container from China,” Olanrewaju Akintobi, a farmer and agricultural extension specialist, said.
“With the processing zones, however, farmers will have nearby factories to process their crops, a premium market with a good price for crops, and jobs for Nigerians; even aggregators will be plenty to buy,” he added.
According to him, the initiative will make farmers grow better seeds as they will produce to the quality requirements of the factories. It will also result in more foreign exchange for the country as farmers will not sell raw products. “This is good news for our farmers.”
The SAPZ initiative also prioritises the development of agro-industrial activities, leverages existing private sector investments, and takes advantage of existing infrastructure assets.
“The programme is of enormous benefit to the people of Nigeria, with huge potential and opportunity to promote Nigerian agriculture and agribusiness through the provision of required infrastructure, to enhance productivity and efficiency of value addition in the participation of the private sector, as well as to be commercially viable,” said Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget, and national planning.
She said this would, in the long run, create job opportunities and alleviate poverty, enhance food security and promote agribusiness.
The project is offering infrastructure and finance in order to maximise enormous unexplored potential in Nigeria’s agriculture sector.
This one, unlike others, is free of political campaigns because it is a synergy between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the states.
Edobong Akpabio, chairperson, agriculture and allied sector group of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “For me, it cannot be a project like we’ve seen in the past. Besides that, the funds are from the AfDB and other partners; it is private sector-driven.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, in remarks delivered by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said: “If the Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones program delivers on its objectives, and we have no doubt that it will, then we will in less than a decade have dealt a fatal blow to food insecurity, create millions of good paying agro-industrial jobs and opportunities and radically improve export earnings from agriculture.”
The latest Global Hunger Index (2022) ranks Nigeria 103rd among 121 countries facing hunger crises in the world, a position it has maintained for the second year in a row. Hence, there is an expected clamour for greater action, responsiveness, and delivery to avert a food crisis in Nigeria.