A Singaporean firm, Wilmer International has inaugurated a 50, 000 hectare ultra modern oil palm plantations with the capacity to employ over 20, 000 persons equivalent to the work force of the Cross River State government.
Speaking while inaugurating Calaro , Ibiae and Biase oil palm plantation jointly owned by Wilmar International Limited and PZ Cussons at Mbarakom, Akamkpa LGA ,the state governor Senator Liyel Imoke, noted that the investment will not only transform the communities but improve the production of oil palm and bring the state to its position as the greatest oil palm producer in the country.
The governor disclosed that the state intends to create an agricultural cluster unmatched by any other state in Nigeria and said its partnership with the private sector is its first resolve in a unique way and is rooted in a concept to bring economic growth and commercial agriculture.
He explained that there has been a global demand for oil palm for both domestic and international consumption and Nigeria being a major player, is a net importer to meet local consumption, adding that Malasia attribute its success in that regards to the commitment which its government has shown in planting and processing.
Imoke therefore reasoned that Federal Government should partner states in that direction while Wilmar has taken major steps to consolidate its position in Cross River with plans not only to plant but also establish an oil palm refinery.
He explained that the state has established an outdoor scheme for local farmers to have access to financial assistance and agricultural inputs with the view of achieving long term sustainability and he called on the Federal Government to provide affordable funds and inputs for the success of the sector.
The governor maintained that government intends to reposition agriculture as a sector of choice to attract youth involvement by providing access to credit to encourage their entry into the industry.
He remarked that the state is committed to the partnership as the plantations when fully operational will be run, supervised and managed by Cross Riverians with only two expatriates and said it is not just a creation of wealth but transfer of skills as well as new opportunities for new businesses to grow.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akin Adesina, said the venture which is under the economic agenda of federal government, is intended to change the fortune of agriculture and make it a worthwhile venture.According to Adesina, who represented by the Team Leader, Oil Palm Value Chain, Dr. Dickson Okolo, federal government has put in place many conducive facilities both as funds and inputs to ensure value chain is achieved while striving to ensure increase in the production of vegetable oil to satisfy local demands, export as well as create jobs.
He explained that his office made available N36 Million to cover 250 hectares to wipe out deficit, provided 4 million nuts to nursery estates for planting next year and that Cross River is getting 166,123,000 seedlings at N25 million to raise seedlings as well as support for the replacement of several wild grove plants in pilot areas.
The Deputy Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly,Hon. Itaya Nyong, an indigene of the area, said the inauguration was historic as it has brought a world class industry there and assured the company of the community’s cooperation and support for its business to succeed.
Nyong enjoined youth of the area to go to school because the old days of Calaro are over and “is not business as usual” as he saw Wilmar as the only opportunity to develop the area because 80 percent of its land has been taken over.
The Chairman/CEO, Wilmar International Limited, Mr. Kuok disclosed that their vision is to revive the oil palm industry in Nigeria and restore its past glory by investing in the entire palm oil value chain, adding that its focus is to develop oil plantations, processing mills, palm oil refinery, production of packaged edible oils and nutritional spreads and its distribution to Nigerian consumers Kuok explained that it was in an attempt to achieve the objective that the company formed a joint venture with PZ Cussons which will endeavour to improve Nigeria’s global presence in the oil palm production, processing, trading and distribution.
The Chairman PZ Cusson Nigeria PLC, Prof. Emmanuel Edozien, said the investment has brought in the much needed foreign direct investment and will entrench current laudable changes in agricultural methods and farm practices geared towards international standards, adding that it will be beneficial to the local communities whilst also ensuring attractive returns on capacity to the investors.
Edozien averred that the investments will ultimately bring prosperity to Cross Riverians in particular and Nigeria in general and that they are in the state to stay and will continue to expand the scope of their investments.
Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. James Aniyom, said the ceremony was in line with the state’s policy thrust of not being involved in the management of agricultural estates put provide infrastructure while fostering partnership with the private sector to provide jobs and transform the agricultural sector.
Aniyom disclosed that government has provided incentives like tax holiday among others to encourage intending genuine investors, as about 40 percent of its land mass is not yet cultivated and is looking for more investments and investors.
Special Adviser Investment Promotion, Mr. Gerald Ada, said the investment profile of the state is growing by the day and that the investment will provide 20,000 jobs which will increase the internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state.Ada said the company’s impressive record will be of benefit to the state as a world class oil palm production company.
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