… Can rake in N1.5trn annually
Stories by Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
farming in Nigeria has become a serious business, but there are some cash crops that are still being neglected, though they can generate huge foreign exchange for both government and farmers.
One of such cash crops is Jatropha, which farmers call gold plant because of its value-chain which has potential to generating about N1.5 trillion from both local and international market and solves the problem of poverty in Nigeria.
Jatropha may sound new to some people but the crop has been around for years although its huge potential is yet to be discovered and have remained untapped in the country. One beautiful thing about the plant is that it could reduce importation of kerosene and diesel which could save foreign exchange and payment of petroleum subsidy, as the Jatropha diesel is now a healthy source of aviation fuel in the world. The plant can survive for eight months without water and has a life lifespan of 50 years.
Daily Sun learnt that farmers who are committed to the cultivation of Jatropha plant are abandoning their farms for other crops because they are not getting support after investing heavily in the plantation, following government abandonment of initiative so far there has been no support or incentives to those farmers. Farmers said the movement for the production of biofuel as an alternative source of power was initiated during the Goodluck Jonathan administration but was abandoned along the line.
However, the gold plant has potential to create wealth through the establishment of small scale industries. For instance, from the seed alone one can get biodiesel, bio-kerosene, bio-petrol, glycerol and even organic fertiliser from the cake. The cake could also be used to generate electricity, animal feeds, and poultry feeds. It can be used to produce insecticide and also produce candle from the latex.
Farmers who want to venture into farming of Jatropha have no reason to fear because the plant can survive anywhere and does not require any particular soil type for growth. In Nigeria, farmers intercrop Jatropha with other plants like maize and cassava in between the Jatropha trees, so farmers do not have to look for another land to plant.
The market for bio-diesel and organic fertiliser is growing but there are not enough raw materials to feed the growth, which creates emerging market for Nigeria, as there are currently commercial plantations of Jatropha plants in Ghana, Mali, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and South Africa. Jatropha plant is widely found in Nigeria and the local names are botuje pupa, lapalapa pupa, okpokporu, sherigun, among others.
Jatropha plant has been identified as a very important source of bio-fuels after palm oil. It had been used as bio-diesel and organic fertiliser in several European, Asian and African countries.
That explains why Stakeholders in Jatropha oil and bio-diesel production in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to institute a N500 billion fund for the development of all the value chains of the product.
Speaking in Abuja recently, the National President of Jatropha Growers, Processors and Exporters Association of Nigeria (JaGPEAN), retired Maj-Gen. J. A. Omosebi, said the N500 billion fund, which should be accessed at 5 per cent interest rate, could help the country in meeting its pledge to reduce the consumption of fossil-based diesel by blending 20 per cent of bio-diesel into every litre of fossil diesel.
Omosebi said the fund would help in the development of Jatropha in the country and assist in blending 10 per cent of ethanol into every litre of petrol consumed in the country by 2020, adding that Jatropha is a plant that can grow in any part of Nigeria, which can be used for bio-diesel production, bio-fuel, insecticides and medicines.
He said since about 12 million litres of diesel are consumed daily in Nigeria, to blend 20 per cent bio-diesel, the country would need 2.4 million litres of bio-diesel daily and for 365 days, it would require 876 million litres.
Also speaking the Managing Director of Boluwa Golden Solutions, Mr. Boluwajoko Gbenga, said that Jatropha farming could be used to solve the unemployment problem in Nigeria because the bio-diesel from its seeds as well as other by-products are now hot cakes in the international market.
According to him, government should engage in private partnership with companies that are into contract farming, provide free land for those who want to venture into Jatropha farming and also make funds available for those who have land for the project.
He said that both potential investors and farmers can make up to N495,000 to N500,000 and above from two hectares of land in the first eight months and double the money in the second year as it will fruit twice the third year because the plant would have fully matured.
He added: “From local market alone, mixing Jatropha oil with our petrol and do retrospective of 30 per cent crude oil plus 70 per cent of Jatropha, the cost of buying petrol will come down. On export market, Nigeria can generate N1.5 trillion in a year. We are talking to foreigners to bring machines for refining the crop to Oyo State so that farmers that are planting can process it after harvesting. We can export the oil, bio-fuel, bio-kerosene, bio-gas, and with the waste product, you can produce fertiliser, you can convert the waste product to protein, which will be used for feeding animals and it has a very long value chain.
“Presently, one big telecom company uses bio-fuel to run its base stations all over the country. In this business, there is no waste because both oil and chaff are marketable. Besides, there are people who plant and use the bio-fuel to run their generators in Oyo State. More so, we have foreigners waiting to buy the cake. Jatropha plant and seeds can last for up to 50 years and the seed is ready for harvest when the plant is less than a year,” added.
Meanwhile, a Jatropha farmer that lost over N300 million to an accredited Jatropha farming specialist from the North, Shehu Ahmed, who spoke to Daily Sun, said: “I will not advice anybody to go into Jatropha farming with my experience except if there is government support to rehabilitate some of us who have suffered through their negligence as a result of selecting people who are not trusted in the whole affair of Jatropha farming. Nigerian farmers are suffering because people are not educated on how to farm. They said I can get fertiliser from my local government, I registered my farm with the local government, paid my due but I have never got a seed, fertiliser or insecticides. Every season, the seeds of Jatropha would fall but I didn’t care any longer.
“If government is interested in facilitating anything, there is land and they should come and pilot a scheme. There is nothing wrong if government is spending now that they started giving N5,000 to people. There are massive empty lands along Abuja and Maiduguri where government can pilot project in agriculture, which will produce enough food for the country to eat and both farmers and government will make huge revenue from such project.”
He said government is richer than farmers, stating that it needs to support farmers to grow enough food required for consumption and export.