As Nigeria continues efforts to diversify its economy and escape the consequences of dependency on petroleum, the Anambra State government has initiated a campaign to make businessmen from the state shift attention from importation to agriculture.
Governor Willie Obiano has said the campaign is based on his decades of experience as a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and executive director of a leading bank, during which he was involved in different important businesses because of the import-dependent nature of the Nigerian economy.
Speaking to a large delegation of traders from Lagos and Anambra states at an interactive session, Obiano said: “The poor naira exchange rate makes importation pretty difficult. With Nigeria’s population at 182 million, there is a huge market for those who want to invest in agriculture, including those who want to export agricultural produce.”
He told the businessmen that, buoyed by the state’s huge success recorded in rice production and export of vegetables like bitter leaf and pumpkin to Europe, Anambra State was about to start exporting yam tubers to the United States through the same London-based logistics and aviation firm, which started the vegetable exports about two years ago to the United Kingdom.
According to Obiano, The experience “shows that no person who utilises the advice of competent and experienced professionals can go wrong in agriculture, including livestock.”
“We are about to start providing credit facilities to people in livestock, especially those who want to breed particular breeds of cattle, fowls and goats,” he said.
Disclosing that the state, which was producing only 80 tonnes of rice three years ago, now harvests 280 tonnes annually, the governor stated that the output would increase dramatically with the entry of big businesses like the Coscharis Group. Rice from Anambra State, he noted, was last year adjudged the best in Africa at an international agriculture fair in Lagos.
He asserted that: “Agriculture is profitable, and this is why hardnosed businessmen, like Cosmas Maduka and Aliko Dangote are investing heavily in rice production, for instance.”
Obiano argued that Nigeria’s present business climate favours local agricultural production, even as he disclosed that the Nigerian subsidiary of SABMiller of South Africa, based in Onitsha, has concluded plans to start buying sorghum from the Songhai farms in Igbariam, Anambra State, because “it is not prudent for the South African multinational firm to continue to import sorghum when it is produced here and sold at a more affordable price.”
Responding to the campaign for diversification, Chief Okey Ezeibe, founding president of the Balogun Traders Association, which spearheaded the multibillion naira International Trade Fair Complex in Lagos, said his local government area in Anambra State is now producing far greater food because of the state government’s aggressive policy.
Ezeibe added that a business complex similar to the Trade Fair Complex could be built in Anambra State if members of his association were provided with land and infrastructure.