•As Fayemi signs N3.5 billion MoU with Dutch firm, Villam Agric
By Rotimi Ojomoyela
Ado-Ekiti—In view of dwindling economic fortune of the nation arising from the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the world, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has restated his administration’s resolve to use the agriculture sector as a platform for the diversification of the state’s economy.
The Governor also expressed the need for the state to convert its knowledge capacity to agricultural technology and achieve higher productivity and yield as well as a reduction in post-harvest losses which the state has suffered for years.
Dr Fayemi made this disclosure during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the state government and a Dutch Agric investment Group, Villam Agric Ltd in Ado-Ekiti. The group is committing N3.5 billion into the project.
Governor Fayemi explained that Ekiti used to be the Cocoa capital of Nigeria and hoped that with the various interventions from both local and international agricultural concerns, the state would soon bounce back to its original position in the sector.
He added that his administration was partnering a number of other institutions like Dangote Group, Promasidor, Stallion Group and a few others to help reposition the sector to improve food production in the state.
He assured the investors that all the resources they require for their activities in the state such as land, water and human capital are readily available for them to deliver on their plans and programmes.
According to the governor, “For us, it’s time to convert our knowledge capacity to agric technology, higher productivity and yield and reduction in post-harvest losses that we have suffered for years. And this is the time to do it as Nigeria confronts the challenges of the implications of Covid-19 on our oil where the price of our oil is going down.
“And when that price is going down, yes, you are the owners of Shell but you are also the agric capital of the world, so you have an alternative, when oil goes down, your agriculture fix in because that is almost on a permanent basis. So we have that to learn from you, and that is why entering into this partnership is a demonstration of where we want to be and the leadership that we want to offer in the sector.
“And you would be the 7th institution that we are doing this with, one of your competitors is already here, Promasidor in the dairy sector, they are helping us with the resuscitation of our moribund dairy farm and we expect that by the time the current processes are completed about 12 to 18 months, they promised that they would be delivering 10,000litres of milk per day in Ekiti which can then go into the market.
“We also have some of our own local players, Dangote is about establishing a rice milling farm here, Stallion group is also setting up a rice mill and other sets of groups up north focusing on cassava for starch production, we have FMS, Promise point, we have the family company as well who are also focusing on that.
“You talk about cocoa, you know Ekiti, in our previous life when we were serious about agriculture, we used to be the cocoa capital of this country. We want to go back to that, we believe we can do it with your assistance and the work you would be doing with us over the next number of years. And we had the land bank of 40,000 acres already identified across the state and I think what you are going to be given in the Orin farm settlement is one of the major areas that we have for agricultural production in the state.
“And one of the things we are also trying to accomplish is connecting the farms to market. So rural roads are up for significant improvement, about a thousand kilometres of rural road is already slotted for reconstruction, rehabilitation by our government in partnership with the World Bank and all these are an integrated initiative that we believe is critical to what you would be doing and we had significant support from the central bank which we would plough into land clearing, land development, support for out-growers and the farmers and training and education initiative by our College of Agriculture and Technology”.
Earlier, the Managing Director of Villam Agric Ltd, Rene Haveman stressed the importance of providing food to the people especially during a crisis like the one the world is facing now. He added that a large storage facility like it is available in the state should not be left idle again but should be made to benefit both the investor and the state.
Haveman urged farmers in the state to increase their production during this planting season as he plans to ensure market conformity prices as his organization plans to buy directly from farmers at attractive prices. He said further that his organization would upgrade the silos and by November set up a maize processing plant in the state.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Folorunso Olabode commended Villam Agric Ltd for its efforts at partnering with the state to help reposition agriculture by planning to inject N3.5billion into the sector.