The head of the FEMI agro-economic office IBIROGBA and the correspondent of "Abia", GORDI UDEAJAH, represent the agro-industrial opportunities of the state of Abia in order to attract investors to the state.
The achievements of the late Dr. Michael Okpar as the premier of the unspent Eastern region, especially in agriculture, appear to have remained unsurpassed by the successive administrations of the southeastern states that were part of the former eastern region.
In the absence of oil resources, the then prime minister used income from palm products, rubber, cashew nuts and cocoa beans to develop a nonexistent region in terms of building roads, educational institutions, hotels, residential complexes and industrial development in the region.
Unfortunately, these revenues, which bring agricultural projects, were abandoned and left to deteriorate after the discovery of crude oil.
Reliance on oil revenues, as always said, is a factor that left the country and its federative units underdeveloped to date.
Abia State agricultural force
When it comes to certain cultures, the state of Abia has comparative advantages.
The state has agricultural fertile land and is located in the tropical forest of Eastern Nigeria.
Most crops work very well in the state, but those who have commercial competitiveness include in order quantitative and economic importance, palm, cashew, cocoa, rubber and plantain.
Typically for Nigeria and most federal units, there were many commercial agricultural companies in the state, but most of them were closed due to mismanagement, corruption, low capital investment, a shift in emphasis from agriculture to oil revenues and inefficient agricultural policies.
Data from the State Department of Agriculture show that Abia produces 190,000 metric tons of palm oil per year; 235,000 tons of palm kernel and 175,000 palm kernel oil.
The cashew production is 45,000 metric tons, and rubber production is 35,000 metric tons, and cocoa production in the state is 25,000 metric tons per year.
Abia became the eighth largest cocoa producer among the 14 countries producing cocoa in the country, and a state citizen, the head of David Onikenwaku, who started growing cocoa in 1952, became the largest producer in the country about 10 years ago.
However, other states overtook the state in the production of cocoa, since many plantations are getting older and less productive, and young people are not inclined to agriculture.
The state of agro-industry in Abia
On the position of some state-owned agricultural enterprises, it was gathered that Abia Palm in Ohambell was transferred to management at different times to banks, private companies and recently to another private group that is going to reactivate it.
The Mbawsi oil mill, one of Nigeria's largest palm oil plants, was privatized at various times until it passed into its current dying state.
The government also privatized the Rubber Economy, headquartered in Abam.
It was also independent that the government began to distribute 7.5 million seeds of Tenera Palm in order to further increase production of palm products.
The golden chicken "Abia" in the Uk-East was somewhat dysfunctional, robbing the country of protein sources, which were supposed to come from the institution and employment opportunities for youth.
Despite the fact that the state produces a lot of cashew nuts and cocoa beans, there is neither cashew processing nor a cocoa processing plant in the state.
Similarly, palm oil refineries are needed to deepen the palm industry, create added value and reduce losses after harvesting in the state, while also encouraging the increase in the total area of land planted.
A guide for agro-industrialists
Nigeria is one of the largest producers of cocoa beans in the world, although for Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia. Cocoa, before independence, produced about 90% of the country's foreign exchange earnings.
Fourteen of the states in Nigeria grow cocoa, and they are arranged alphabetically, Abia, Adamava, Aqua Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Kvara, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Taraba, Ondo, Edo and "Cross River" is in the lead in the amount produced per year.
The country still produces about 250,000 metric tons of cocoa per year, but about 96% of the beans are exported to raw materials.
Thus, Abia, being one of the cocoa producing countries in Nigeria, with an annual output of about 25,000 metric tons, can be explored for the possibility of quoting cocoa, chocolate and beverage processing facilities, if proximity to sources of raw materials is most of the factors considered.
Cashew nuts are produced in the state with an annual output of about 45,000 metric tons.
Aggregates, processors and exporters of cashew nuts, such as Olam Edible Nuts, among other things, must take into account the localization of factories, storage facilities or purchasing centers in the state.
The overall effect for Nigeria will be great.
Investing in agribusiness in the state of Abia would create more jobs for Nigerians, help in the fight against poverty and could reduce the involvement of young people in violent crimes of armed robbery, drug displacement, armed militancy and kidnapping.
The Guardian learned that dying investments in the state include Abia Golden Chicken Limited, Ogwe, Ukwa East, with a land area of 360 hectares; Livestock farm "Abia", "Okoko", local government Bende, which occupies 75 hectares of poultry farming, cultivation of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, honey production, fishing and various related products; Company Abia Cashew, Mbala, Isuochi, Umunneochi, with planted 160 hectares, 28 hectares of vapors; Abia Cocoa Estate, Agbaosu, Uzuakoli, Bende, an area of 220 hectares, and Abia Farm, Yodu Ndume, Umuahia North, an area of 22 hectares, for fish and vegetable enterprises.
Rubber production in the state is enough to attract companies for the production of tires and plastics.
With 35,000 metric tons of rubber per year and the possibility of doubling production, if the value chain is really developed, small and medium-sized enterprises will find the state suitable as a source of raw materials.
What should the government of Abia do?
There are basic attractants that encourage agro-union investors to any state, and they include the ease of doing business; safety of life and property; avoid multiple taxation; improved energy supply and good road networks.
However, it is very important.
As in most parts of the country, the state of Abia is threatened by insecurity, including armed robbery and kidnapping.
This scenario affected enterprises in the state and even forced people to leave the country.
Although the state government has taken measures to verify crimes and improve safety of life and property, providing security forces with vehicles equipped with communication devices and prohibiting commercial motorcycles in urban areas, there is room for improvement.
A joint security operation, consisting of the military, the Civil Protection Corps and vigilance groups, must be installed and strengthened to conduct security patrols not only in urban but also in rural areas of the state.
No economic or other activity of man will prosper without the necessary infrastructure.
The government in the state gives priority to improving the deterioration of infrastructure in the state, especially in the roads, but it is necessary to intensify efforts for the development of rural communities where agricultural activities are conducted.
A critical assessment of development has revealed an urban trend, as a result of which rural areas have hardly evolved.
During this rainy season, many roads in the state became deplorable.
Power in the state is not any better than anywhere else, which explains many of the collapsed industries in the country.
Restructuring of the tax regime
Business operators in the state complain about a lot of taxes and fees, describing them as one of the consequences of business operations.
According to them, the regime of multiple taxation includes those imposed by local governments, the state and even the federal government, which are often forcibly extracted.
Therefore, business owners ask the government to agree taxes to check the trend.
From government sources, measures, including the provision of tax holidays to new enterprises, land allocation and other incentives for businesses, are part of government policies aimed at promoting agro-industrial development and attracting more investment in the state.