Stories by Steve Agbota
Despite being blessed with favourable climatic conditions, vast arable land and fertile soil, Nigeria’s agricultural potential is still wallowing in neglect, which informs the inability of the nation to meet the demand for agricultural produce for its large populace.
For decades, a highly nutritional produce with high investment value, coconut, is among the country’s neglected gold mines, despite having the capacity to generate $2.5 billion, create employment and reduce poverty in the country.
Practically, every component of coconut holds value for export and is currently in hot demand all over the world. Coconut could become a major hit for investors as they go into production and export of coconut fruit, coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut powder and desiccated coconut as well as coconut-shell-based products that have a potential export market.
With the huge potential, it is shameful that up to 75 per cent of coconuts in Nigeria market today are imported from Togo, Cameroon, Ghana and Benin Republic despite possessing 98,000 hectares of cultivable fertile lands.
The coconut water has now become one of the fastest growing beverages in the United States, the United Kingdom and other European countries. Reports show that coconut water alone in the drinks category in US was worth over $350 million in 2014, while in UK it was worth £100 million in the same year. Reports also have it that the number of companies that produce beverages with coconut water are on the rise every year.
Some of the health benefits of the coconut water include helping to prevent cancers and heart diseases and aids slimming. Its high potassium property helps prevent strokes, heart attack, hydration and hangovers as well as help to boost the immune system, raise metabolism and reduce heart burn.
Ironically, only few farmers are into coconut farming with a minute percentage of them still maintaining the old trees left behind or planted by their forefathers. The commodity has the potential to generate foreign exchange from promoting investment in the coconut sub-sector going by its fast growing local and international markets because there are huge export markets existing in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Nigerians need to invest in coconut tree plantation because the yields are enormous. From the tree and the coconut shell, which is used to generate energy, to the nut from which coconut oil and coconut milk are derived, an investor is bound to keep smiling to the bank.
Recently, it was discovered that Nigeria could make brake pads, paving bricks and clutch discs and others from coconut shell, which are already in use in some parts of the world. The shell of the coconut that was hitherto thrown away was also known to have good economic value and could earn foreign exchange.
The Executive Director, Doublem Enterprises Development Centre, Muhammad Mustafa, said several bye-products like brake pads, paving bricks and clutch discs that could be got from the pulverised coconut shell are just some of the benefits of coconut palms’ value chain addition if proper attention was given to the development of coconut section of the agriculture industry.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Coordinator, Community of Agricultural Stakeholders of Nigeria (CASON), Sotonye Anga, said Nigeria has a lot of comparative advantage in growing a vibrant economy around coconut sub-sector. He said there is need to first appreciate the versatile nature of the commodity called coconut and to understand that everything about coconut is very important and useful.
He hinted that coconut husk is suitable for greenhouse production because it has capacity to absorb a create of nutrition and give it back to the plant, which makes coconut the best natural organic growing and farming medium.
He added: “So as we are looking at establishing more greenhouses, one medium to really consider has to be coconut because it decomposes very easily and that husk alone can be used to support any kind of crop to enrich the soil nutrient and that same husk can also be used as biofuel. And looking at the importance and the usefulness and, of course, the application, we can now derive several industrial products and raw materials from the same product called coconut and we exploit the coconut husk.
“The husk also can be been used to produce fibre like fibre rugs and carpet, which can be used in housing, hotels and office environments. And then we also talk about coconut shells being used as charcoal, which is even better. Instead of cutting down our trees to make charcoal, why not utilise these coconut shells that are wasted to make charcoal,” he added.
Anga who is also the Managing Director of Universal Quest argued that one important thing that cannot be underestimated in the commodity is coconut oil. All over the world, he said coconut oil is seen as natural skin moisturiser and it is very important raw material ingredient in making a whole lot of body lotions and creams.
He explained: “So in cosmetic industry, coconut oil is huge and, of course, in the pharmaceutical industry and medicinally, the application of coconut oil for curative purposes also very huge. So we need to combine all of these and you will see that it is a very important commodity. So what we need to do is boost our coconut production; we need to take our coconut industry seriously for once.
“When you look at agric areas like Badagry, they’ve got a comparative advantage because of ecology in growing a lot of coconuts and have a lot of coconut trees across that axis. When you go towards the Niger Delta inclusive of Cross River State, Delta State, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa, these are areas where we can basically concentrate coconut production and build coconut economy massively to spur local industry to create employment for our people and reduce Nigeria’s embarrassing poverty as a nation and, of course, fight recession.”
Vet doctors elect new executive
The Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), has elected a new executive to run the affairs of the association for another two years.
After the election, which was done during the association’s 53rd conference in Enugu, Dr. Godwin Abonyi, defeated the incumbent President, Dr. Edgar Sunday, who sought re-election for a second term.
While some members of the immediate past executive were returned unopposed, some other positions were filled with new members.
Abonyi, who was sworn in immediately alongside other members of the new executive, has assumed duty as the new President.
FG urged to tackle rice smuggling
The Federal Government has urged to develop iron will in its efforts to tackle rice smuggling in the country.
Tunji Owoeye, the Managing Director of Elephant Group Limited, represented by the Project Manager, Dr. Rotimi Fashola, at the 2016 workshop organised by National Association of Agricultural Journalists (NAAJ), said that nothing can be achieved if this is not tackled headlong. He underscored the need to encourage the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) not to become slack in tackling smuggling of contraband item.
Owoeye said with vast land, water and labour resources, Nigeria has no business being a net rice importing country, adding that to be self-sufficient in rice production, government needs to deploy enhanced technology, political will to vigorously and consistently fight smuggling. He also advocated a stable/consistent and better policy articulation and expertise, and wherewithal to harness all the available resources.
Speaking on how to be self-sufficient in rice production, he hinted that more emphasis should be placed on the already identified ecologies where rice can be cultivated successfully, adding that agribusiness owners should have access to finance with single digit interest rate.
He said there must be access to farm inputs such as fertilizer and other agrochemicals at affordable prices, provision and easy access to improved varieties (seed/seedlings).
Owoeye explained: “Rice is a staple food in Nigeria. It constitutes a major part of our diet. Virtually every household in Nigeria eats rice at least once in three days. While it has been accepted that local rice is more nutritious, its production has not met the national demand.
“Rice demand far exceeds production and this is why large quantities of rice are either being imported or smuggled through many of our borders. Nigeria’s total output is barely above three million tonnes whereas national demand is far in excess of six million tonnes. And with our population growth rate, the gap would be wider in the next few years, if something urgent is not done,” he added.
He noted that mechanisation is also the key if Nigeria is to attain self-sufficiency in the shortest possible time, saying there are appropriate machines for every scale of training, which will increase efficiency, reduce drudgery and post-harvest losses while making rice cultivation attractive to the youths.
Why Sokoto’s partnering foreign investors to boost agric –Tambuwal
the Sokoto State government, in line with its agricultural development plan, the Sokoto State government has embarked on a number of Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements with different foreign and domestic investors.
The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Umaru Nagwari Tambuwal, who spoke through Prof. Ahmed Ala, of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, during a workshop organised by the Association of Agricultural Journalists (NAAJ) with the theme, “Sustainable Agriculture Under Economic Recession,” said the state government was into PPP agreements with some foreign investors from China, Argentina, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Morocco, among others.
The commissioner said the purpose was to intensify agricultural development, boost the economy, create jobs and reduce poverty in the state. He said the Federal Government and Sokoto State in particular have recognised the importance of foreign and domestic investors in the growth and development of the economy more than ever before.
He stated: “For example, the Sokoto State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Ministry of Animal Health and Fisheries have entered into agreement with China and Argentina to establish Agricultural Science and Technology Demonstration Park between Sokoto State, Nigeria and Henan Golden Silk Road Industrial Ltd, China, which is expected to cover the construction of 900 hectares demonstration plots; 600 hectares high-yield cotton and corn demonstration fields (water-saving drip irrigation technology).
“Others include 200 hectares hybrid maize farming (water-saving drip irrigation technology); vegetable greenhouses and open field vegetable farm of 100 hectares; making full use of renovation of existing water facilities, irrigation stations and river dredging; establishment of seed processing lines and warehouse construction; construction of cottonseed processing line and wheat corn seed processing lines and storage warehouses.”
He commissioner said that the state will also embark on construction of seed quality testing center (100m2); Agricultural Technology Exchange and Training Center (400m2); Science and Technology Demonstration Center office space (1000 m2); and Agricultural Machine Maintenance and Training Center (1000 m2) etc.
He therefore, called on all willing investors both International and domestic to come forward and invest in the State in order to assist the state in achieving its economic growth and development goal. Assuring that the state is ready to provide the necessary enabling environment that would ensure good and attractive return for the investors.