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Edo boosts 10,000 jobs with agriculture - 2015-03-23 06:02:20

The Nation News - Osagie Otabor

More than 5000 youths in Edo State may soon be taken-off the unemployment market if four companies that recently got over 100 hectares of land to grow different crops commenced operation. Two of the four companies have also indicated interest to establish ethanol refineries at Ehor and Orhionmwon local governments.

The four companies- Ekha Bio-Chemical Nigeria Limited, Industrial Development Group, Obax Worldwide and Wilbahi Investment Limited last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government and they are to invest over $500m in the agricultural sector of the state.

Ekha Bio-Chemical applied for 10,000 hectares to grow cassava with a view to producing cassava bye-products such as chips and sweetners at Ehor in Uhunmwode, Industrial Development Group got 20,000 hectares to grow sugar-cane for ethanol production in Owan East, Obax Worldwide also got 20,000 hectares to cassava at Orhionmwon for its ethanol refinery to be built at Ologbo in Ikpoba-Okha while Wilbahi Investment applied for 50,000 hectares to grow rice, oil palms and cassava at different parts of the state.

To avoid food shortage especially the popular stable garri which is gotten from cassava, the state government has prepared land for over 5000 outgrowers farmers to grow cassava for the ethanol refineries.

Commissioner of Agriculture, Abdul Oroh who spoke shortly after signing of the MOU said the state government planned to open up over 300,000 hectares of land within the next three years for cultivation on different areas of agriculture.

Oroh said the droves with which investors showed interest in the state was part of the gains of the Agribusiness Summit organised by the state government last year adding that the contents ot the MOU provided a win-win situation for the state government, communities and investors.

The commissioner who warned the investors against land grabbing stated thatbthe benefiting communities ceded the lands to the government and not the investors to prevent a conflict between the companies and the communities.

According to him, We are considering giving additional land to existing agro-companies like Okomu and others. We are treating 12 applications from different investors. We are on the verge of signing a MOU with Dangote group because we have identified about 50,000 hectares for rice cultivation in Estako Central. We believe that if some of those new ventures are concluded, Edo State will become one of the richest state in the country and we will contribute over 25% to food export. We import a lot of ethanol from Brasil. We are also going to bridge some gaps there.

The MOU we just signed gave a time limit for the investors to develop a substantial part of the land or the investor faces forfeiture on any undeveloped part of the land. We dont want land grabbers. If we discover the company does not have the capacity or has not done what we agreed. We will revoke the unused land. We want an inclusive process based on free and inform consent of the various communities. We already have the consent of the communities.

One of the things we intend to attach to it is that we want to include out-growers scheme to all these transactions. The company will guarantee a market for the produce. They will also assist the outgrowers in terms of provision of quality seedlings. We are going to do another agreement because we dont want them having problems with the communities.

There will be a land use charge which will be paid subsequently. We are looking at N2000 per hectare per annum. We have not finalised it but we are working on it and we will now have an agreement to work out method of paying. The state government will collect it and pay part of it to the communities or provide infrastructures for the communities. We have met with the communities and discuss with them. Communities are already worried that the investors are yet to commence. It is based on their willingness to cede the land to the government and not the investor.

Chairman of Obax Worldwide, Patrick Obasuyi said they choose Nigeria because the country is the largest producer of cassava. He said over 350 permanent jobs would be created and 2000 jobs during construction of te ethanol refineries.

He said they would grow cassava to be used by their ethanol refineries to avoid taking food from the existing market adding that the refinery would be completed in 2016.

Managing Director of Wilbahi Investment, Wilma Aguele said they planned to make the state the food hub of the nation.

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