…With centres at Ikom, Ogoja, Obubra to feed the hub
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the Nigerian ministries of agriculture and rural development (FMARD) and finance are set to establish a Special Agro-Processing Zone (SAPZ) in Nigerian Cross River State’s cash crop yielding belt – Ikom, Obubra, and Ogoja.
The main agro-processing hub would be sited at Ikom, a town with a bevy of commercial activities, especially in cocoa, on the border with Nigeria’s eastern neighbour, the Republic of Cameroon.
There will also be agro transforming centres in Ogoja and Obubra, two agrarian towns renown for rice cultivation, cassava, cocoa and yams. The centres would serve the hub in Ikom.
Financing for the project will come from a tripartite group: Nigerian federal government through its ministry of agriculture (FMARD), the AfDB and IFAD.
According to Franklin Bassey Uwaouo, a desk officer for special agro-processing zone at FMARD, announced that Cross River was considered as one of the SAPZ states in South-South region, seeing its huge agricultural holding in vast areas covering several thousands of hectares of land.
Cross River, with an area measuring 20,156 square kilometres, has a large arable land for agriculture. The state also has some of the biggest plantations like: rice, oil palm, cocoa, and rubber, at least before Plantation Pamol left Nigeria for the Cote d’Ivoire.
The AfDB and IFAD team were in the state for a pre-appraisal mission, especially to appraise the state government’s preparedness for the project. The team said they were satisfied during their visit to the state, of “full readiness.”
The team said the location of the SAPZ project in Cross River was based on the strong commitment from the state governor, Ben Ayade, in the agricultural sector in general, and the readiness to get the agro-processing zone off the ground in the state, in particular.
They also said, the state’s effort is further enhanced by the federal government’s agricultural commitment by the Muhammadu Buhari administration at the federal level.
The SAPZ initiative by the federal government is to serve as a veritable hub for the project in the state and the South-South region of the country.
Uwaouo, leader of the AfDB, IFAD and FMARD team, noted that agriculture is the future of the world economy, saying he was encouraged by Governor Ayade’s positioning of Cross River to be an active player in the sector in the future.
Governor Ayade lauded the team for siting the SAPZ in the state, saying it was a pleasant recognition of his administration’s efforts in the agriculture and agro-allied industry which is the motivating factor behind the establishment of the SAPZ.
He assured that the state government will continue to promote policies that will raise agriculture as a business in the state.
He took the AfDB and IFAD team on a tour of some agriculture projects in the state: ultra-modern rice milling factory in Ogoja; Ayade Agro industrial Farm; Bansara Rice Farm/Mill; Bekwarra ATC and CRBDA farms; Groundnut Oil Processing Factory, Gakem; Woda and Ijegu rice farms, and the FGN grain reserves.
Other projects visited include: Cocoa Processing Factory, Ikom; SAPZ Industrial Hub, Ikom; Cassava Processing Centre, Obubra; Nigeria-Cameroun route and Cocoa Estate; Songhai Farms, Itigidi; Cross River Integrated Poultry Farm, Calabar; Ayade Industrial Park, Calabar; Tinapa Business & Leisure Resort, Calabar; and some private farms in the state such as: Adim Rice Farm; Ibiase Oil Palm; Obassi Poultry Farm, and Calaro Estate Mbarakom (run by PZ Cussons-Wilmar International).
At the Ayade Industrial Park, Calabar, the team inspected rice seeds and seedlings factory, Calachika, Feed Mill, Kissime Noodles.