• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

US rallies ReelFruit, others to alleviate poverty, hunger in Nigeria through agriculture

BusinessDay, others bag special recognition at USAID-Breakthrough Action behaviour change awards

…as ReelFruit opens $2.5m dried fruit plant in Ogun

As part of bilateral agreement between Nigeria and the United States which is centred on large- scale agriculture and agribusiness with a focus on hunger and poverty alleviation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged its continued support for Nigeria.

The U.S. Agency, which supports humanitarian assistance, health systems, transparent and accountable governance, basic education, and a more market-led, trade-friendly economy in Africa, however decried inadequate investment in agriculture, post-harvest losses and lack of storage facilities in the Country.

Speaking at the inauguration of ReelFruit’s $2.5 million, 800 metric tons, dried-fruit processing plant in Abeokuta, Ogun State Capital recently, Sarah Werth, USAID Nigeria’s Deputy Mission Director, declared that USAID’s investment in Nigerian economy especially in agriculture and agribusiness spanned 25 years, including its in investment in ReelFruit, a subsidiary of Nature’s Bounty Health Products.

She said, “I am delighted to be here today to witness the inauguration of Nature’s Bounty’s 800 metric tons dried fruit processing facility in Ogun State. I heard about the challenges that your company and supply chain faced during the COVID-19 Pandemic and it is really inspiring to see how this company has rebounded.

“I applaud Nature’s Bounty and its leadership for its resilience and drive, which has led to where we are today in opening this facility.

“Over the last twenty-five years, the United States Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested in Nigeria’s economic growth, particularly the agriculture and agribusiness sectors.

“The key to our partnership is engaging the government, private sector, and communities to empower local actors. Additionally, we are committed to stimulating sustainable and commercially viable business linkages among input suppliers, producers, aggregators, and processors.

“In alignment with this vision, USAID, through the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub has catalyzed investments for 33 local businesses. This includes businesses like yours that were adversely affected by the pandemic and disruptions to global supply chains.

“In a world grappling with climate change and protracted conflict, the importance of food security cannot be overstated. USAID stands in solidarity with our Nigerian partners, such as Nature’s Bounty, as they tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty.

“With a $500,000 grant from USAID’s West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Nature’s Bounty supported 350 smallholder farmer networks across eight states in Nigeria—Kaduna, Oyo, Edo, Ondo, Adamawa, Ekiti, Niger, and Lagos. Farmers received training on good agronomic practices and established a direct channel for purchasing fresh produce.

“The impact of this partnership extended even further as Nature’s Bounty leveraged an impressive $2,000,000 in private sector funding, which led to this state-of-the- art processing factory.

“Our celebration today extends beyond the launch of a processing facility. We are also here to recognize the resilience and innovation of a company that has pioneered a business model that seeks to reduce postharvest losses.

“This venture’s success would not have been possible without the involvement of smallholder farmers and their out-grower program, which establishes a consistent supply chain for processing while simultaneously creating jobs and increasing incomes within local communities.”

Earlier, Affiong Williams, the CEO of ReelFruit, who spoke briefly before inauguration of the dried fruit plant by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, said, “Today marks a momentous occasion in the history of our company.

“We are proud to have commissioned the largest dried fruit factory in Nigeria, which serves as a testament to my long-term unwavering belief in Nigeria’s agricultural and manufacturing opportunity.

“We are going to process our range of dried fruits at scale, to serve customers across the country, as well as sell ‘Made in Nigeria’ to the rest of the world, creating hundreds of jobs, and positively impacting farmers.”