How Akwa Ibom is leading Nigeria’s agro-industrialisation
Nigeria’s agriculture has long been known to hold great promise and has historically been the country’s major source of revenue and foreign exchange earner.
In the 60s and 70s Nigeria attained extraordinary heights from its agricultural production which was not only limited to the extinct groundnut pyramids, cocoa house in Ibadan, and a host of other social and infrastructural development supported by revenue generated through the sector.
Then it all happened that oil was discovered in commercial quantity and the agricultural revenue ended and Nigeria abandoned the sector.
But since the 2014 collapse of global oil crude prices at the international market, there has been a renewed focus on the agricultural sector as the country attempts to diversify its economy away from oil.
The shift was necessitated by the growing statistics of youth unemployment and the vast agricultural potentials that can drive a more sustainable economic development in Africa’s most populous nation.
With the current economic downturn, the country is grappling with, there is consensus across board, that there is no better time to leverage the potentials of the agricultural sector than now, to create jobs, attain food security and place it on the path of sustainable growth and development.
Nigeria’s agricultural fundamentals are robust and include an estimated 84 million hectares of arable land out of which only 40 percent is cultivated and only zero percent of the 40 percent is cultivated optimally.
Two of Africa’s largest rivers (Niger and Benue) flow through and within the borders of the country. There is adequate annual rainfall, a large young workforce, and over 200 million consumers that offer a domestic market to support increased food production and processing.
Africa’s most populous nation is among the top growers in various crops production such as yam, palm oil, cocoa beans, pineapple, and sorghum among others.
It is the largest producer of sorghum in the world just after the United States and ranks fifth in palm oil production and cocoa beans. Nigeria is also a large global nuts exporter.
In terms of value, it is the second leading exporter of cashew nuts worldwide. Indeed, oil, fruits, nuts, and seeds are among the ten best performing export categories.
Supporting the current diversification drive of the Buhari led administration to unlock the country’s agricultural potentials, Akwa Ibom State – located in the South-South region 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.
The Emmanuel Udom Led administration is aware of the potentials of the agricultural sector and is committed to advancing the sector.
In his Inaugural address for his second term, Governor Udom stated unequivocally that “agriculture will continue to receive the needed boost in my second term.”
“We will continue to ensure that staple food items are made available and at affordable prices for our people. We will encourage investments in agro-allied industries as a way of generating employment opportunities and wealth creation.”
The administration of Governor Emmanuel believes that the state, which is blessed with abundant natural resources, fertile land, and a good climate, can produce sufficient foods to feed its population and provide a sustainable raw materials base for its burgeoning industries.
Since assuming office as the executive governor of the state, the agricultural sector and food sufficiency quest has been given a very high priority by Governor Emmanuel.
The governor’s objective has always been to ensure that food is readily available for his people to put on their table and that the state diversifies from petrodollar into an agro-based economy.
A man known for matching up words with action, the Emmanuel Udom led administration has swung into action, continuing with the agricultural revolution which began in his first term.
As part of the agricultural value-chain and backward integration to service the coconut refinery with raw input from local farmers, the administration had embarked on the cultivation of 11,000 hectares of coconut plantation.
Over 1, 200 hectares of rice have been cultivated under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, while 48, 000 rice farmers have been registered for the programme in different parts of the state.
This is intended to make Akwa Ibom a major rice-producing state in Nigeria.
His administration has revived cocoa production in the state through the establishment of the Cocoa Development Committee, chaired by the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo.
It is also noteworthy that over 500,000 improved cocoa seedlings were raised and distributed to farmers at a highly subsidized rate across the 28 cocoa-producing local government areas of the state.
About 450 youths have also been trained on cocoa maintenance as the state is known to have one of the best flavours of cocoa in the country.
The implication of this is that Akwa Ibom will soon join the league of Nigeria’s top cocoa-producing states,(backed up with the necessary manpower) courtesy of the various strategies the government has put in place to increase the participation of farmers in cocoa production.
Also, 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 the cultivation of cocoa in the state to earn foreign exchange.
The essence of the massive cocoa production in the state is to produce cocoa for export and have it processed to produce beverages like Bournvita and Ovaltine among others.
In terms of poultry production, Akwa Prime Hatchery produces 10,000 birds weekly as well as other processed poultry products.
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 over 500,000 day-old chicks per week before the end of the year.
Some other notable achievements in the agricultural sector include the refurbishing of Cassava Processing Factories at Ikot Okudom, Eket, Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo/Asutan LGA, and Ikot Ekang in Abak LGA and leasing to private operators for the production of high-quality garri, odourless fufu, and cassava flour and establishment of large hybrid rubber nursery at Ebighi Anwa, Okobo LGA in partnership with Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria.
The partnership with the research institute is for distribution to rubber farmers at highly subsidized rates and the establishment of demonstration plots on various agricultural technologies for the transfer of improved technologies to farmers through Akwa Ibom Agricultural Development Programme (AKADEP).
Others are the planting of 500 citrus seedlings, 600 hybrid plantain suckers, and 1,000 pineapple suckers at the Horticulture Garden in Uyo LGA, procurement and distribution of 30,000 hybrid plantain suckers to 700 farmers as well as Installation of maize preservation/shelling machine at Nung Udoe.
From the coconut refinery to the Akwa Ibom rice and other economic projects, the administration of Emmanuel has clearly demonstrated and clearly spelt out his priority for agriculture.
The state’s industrialisation programme has been linked to agriculture because many industries use agricultural by-products; as a result, its current drive in the area of industrialization is not without a major contribution by the agric sub-sector.
Aware of the fact that the biggest enemy of great is good, the Emmanuel Udom led administration is not resting on its oars but keeps striving to deliver on its electoral promises to the indigenes of Akwa Ibom.