By Adewale Sanyaolu
Shell and the Rivers State Government have inaugurated a multi-billion-naira Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited built in partnership with Vieux Manioc BV of the Netherlands, and the Embassy of The Netherlands in Nigeria.
This was even as the Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria and Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Mr. Osagie Okunbor, noted that the local value-addition to cassava via local manufacturing and processing could potentially unlock about $16million in taxes to the government.
“Data shows that Nigeria is the largest cassava producer globally, accounting for about 20 per cent of total production worldwide. However, while domestic economy’s demand for cassava and its constituents is high, the supply has shown a gap, unable to meet the huge demand,” said Okunbor, adding that the cassava processing company was a critical intervention to bridge the supply gap by providing a reliable offtake for farmers.
The Shell boss says the company will support the economy and earning power of the Rivers State and its people from the cassava value chain while utilising leading technology to process and create more added value services from the household crop.
Okunbor, said, “We’re happy to deliver a project that is designed to provide the agricultural sector of Rivers State and the wider Niger Delta with a sustainable institutionalised off-take mechanism for regional cassava production.”
Okunbor who was represented by the General Manager External Relations, Mr. Igo Weli, said, “It is our hope that a steady source of supply will promote more production of cassava by farmers with the accompanying increase in household incomes and livelihoods ultimately unlocking revenue to government.”
He commended Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his vision and commitment to productive partnership with the private sector to develop the state’s economy.
The Governor led the Minister for Agriculture, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, to inaugurate the company, while commending Shell for its foresight and collaboration with his government on the project. He noted that the factory would positively impact thousands of Rivers people and create tangible alternative income generating opportunities.
Wike said, “I commend Shell for believing in us in this partnership.
Gradually Rivers State will reduce its holding in the company to about 10 percent from the current near 80 percent because the initiative is a preferred method of improving lives, rather than giving handouts to individuals”.
Speaking at the event, Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, applauded Wike and the project partners for seeing the project through. He advised governors of other states in the country to take up similar projects, highlighting the CBN’s interest to support such tangible agricultural initiatives.
He challenged state Governors to implement strategies that that would make them self-reliant and viable for economic development thereby reducing their dependence on allocation from the federal purse.
Explaining the capacity and operations of the processing plant, the Project Manager, Mr. Ruben Joseph Giesen, said, “The Rivers Cassava Processing Company Limited will process cassava into high quality cassava flour via a unique split processing technology based on the operating principle of taking the factory to the farm gates rather than having the farmer bring the cassava tubers to the factory gate.”