NIGERIA – Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU with the Bank of Industry, BoI for the establishment of 10 rice milling and six cassava processing plants at the cost of N13.6 billion, to be sited in some states of the country.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina signed on behalf of the federal government, while the BoI managing director/chief executive, Mr. Rasheed Olaoluwa signed for the bank, at a ceremony held at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja.

Adesina, who said the agreement underscored the seriousness of President Goodluck Jonathan on the development of agriculture in the country, disclosed that the plants would be sited in Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Ogun, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi and Zamfara States.

The minister explained that each of the integrated rice mills has 36,000 metric tonnes capacity with a total capacity of 360,000 metric tonnes that would be established through the BoI.

He added that the six high quality cassava processing plants, with total capacity of 180,000 metric tonnes, earlier approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC would be sited in Abia, Cross River, Delta, Ogun, Ondo and Nasarawa States.

According to the minister, the rice mills and the cassava processing plants are to be operated by the private sector, while the government’s role is facilitation and regulation of policies to encourage farmers and boost local processing of the products.

Adesina added that over six million farmers have benefited from high quality rice varieties and have been able to produce additional seven million paddy rice in the last three years.

He said the initiative was taken having found that Nigeria didn’t have enough mills despite the abundant production of rice and cassava, which processing could not be handled by the private sector alone.

The minister commended the bank over its recently announced N5 billion fund to support Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs dedicated to processing of agricultural products in Nigeria.

Earlier, the BoI managing director had explained that the idea to fund the project at a single digit of five per cent was to enable the government advance its already successful agriculture transformation agenda.

Olaoluwa assured that the 16 processing plants would be established in the next few months, adding that when operational fully, they would reduce the amount of rice being imported into the country.

He noted with delight that Nigeria’s food import, according to the minister has dropped from $6.9billion in 2009 to $4.3billion in 2013, hoping that the country would soon become the net exporter of food.

According to him, the fund was designed to enable BoI, being Nigeria’s leading development bank, play its role of encouraging other financial institutions to follow, assuring of successful implementation of the project.

Furthermore, he explained that loans under the fund, expected to help in creating more jobs, would be granted at single digit of nine per cent interest rate per annum and would run for 10 years including three years of moratorium period.

October 28, 2014;