FEDERAL MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROPOSED DOMESTIC FOOD PRODUCTION AND PROCESSING SCHEME AND THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED ENERGY-AGRI-INDUSTRIAL PARKS (IEAIPs)

In pursuance of the present Administration’s Agricultural Promotion Policy (The Green Alternative) and the need to ensure self-sufficiency in domestic food production, particularly rice and other grains to enhance food security in the country, The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in its Intervention Scheme, acquired various capacities of Rice mills and called for EOI for Investors/Off-takers to participate in the Domestic Food Production and Processing Scheme. See Daily Sun Newspaper of 16th and 21st February 2017. This is commendable, considering the present recession impact caused by our undue reliance on imported rice. For years, Nigeria has been spending huge sums of money importing rice. Between January 2012 and June 2015, Nigeria spent $2.41 billion on rice importation, according to records from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Following, States are keying into the rice revolution. Lagos State, supported by the World Bank got funding to plant rice through FADAMA project and has collaborated with Kebbi State to produce rice for Lagosians.
Taking a cursory look on the Scheme EOI’s requirements, one, most important to note is ability of the would-be investors/off-takers to source raw materials within the catchment areas. For example, they must operate an out grower scheme for paddy rice production to feed the mill. This in essence means the milling plants should be installed near and/or within rice farms or partially having an agri-industrial park or cluster, which is the essence of this treatise.
No doubt, the scheme is laudable and will be impactful, but, it is important to look at the likely environmental drawbacks that may impede its success and one such critical success factor is energy – electricity. Taking a clue from rice producing States like Ebonyi State, energy/electricity snag is a major challenge. There are about 425 mills operating in Abakaliki, the State capital and two rice mills at proposed Ikwo Agri-Industrial Cluster. The mills are not grid connected and operate only with inefficient diesel drives leading to excessive CO2 emission and increased operating cost.
With this attendant high operating cost due to high energy cost from these diesel generating sets, investors/off-takers of the Scheme may find it difficult repaying the investable loan and as well realize the expected and/or required return on investment, not to talk of sustaining the future operation of the mills.
In other to forestall this and achieve the Scheme intended success/impact to the investors/off-takers and the economy, the Ministry should bridge this noticed important environmental snag by amplifying the EOI’s insipid Integrated Energy-Agri-Industrial Park approach. The Energy option addition to the Park is deliberate and highly important, especially renewable energy power plants such as biomass, wind, solar, etc. Such power plants, especially the biomass power plant will not only provide the needed stable electricity to the Park but will rely and use the Park’s agricultural residue/waste, such as maize cobs, rice husks, coffee husks, and cotton stalks; and municipal solid waste as raw materials/stock input to fire the turbines.
The Integrated Energy-Agri-Industrial Park Approach will chiefly and specifically amongst other things assist the Ministry’s Monitoring Teams confirm installation and utilization of the plant and other Equipment as contained in the EOI’s General Information.
Moreso, generally, IEAIPs will help Increase total flows of investment in agro-industry both in terms of skills and capital to establish backward and forward linkages; Create world class supply-chain infrastructure needed for agro-industrial development; Foster strong linkages between agriculture and agro-industry; Provide a close interface between research, extension mechanisms, industry and farmers in the agricultural sector; create employment, off-farm income opportunities and improve quality of life; facilitate commercialization of agriculture and increase exports of processed and value added agro-products, etc.
To achieve aforementioned objectives, the IEAIPs should be developed, set-up and managed under investment-driven partnerships with the private sector on a Private-public-Partnership and managed by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). The SPV, depending on the interests of the SPV stakeholders will provide on-site infrastructure development, including the rehabilitation, modernization, expansion, development and distribution and management of infrastructure and utilities, including gas, water, electricity, communication and roads; collection of rent and fees for infrastructure utilization, promotion of Park to attract further investments.

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Author: idikaaja

Honest, easygoing and responsible

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