Tackling Food Shortage, Unemployment In Southwest

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Southwest states are promoting food production. One area governments in the region are working on is improvement of the poultry and fisheries’sectors’ capacities to ensure food sufficiency. The private sector is partnering the states to increase productivity, DANIEL ESSIET reports.

With an average yearly economic growth rate of more than five per cent, the Southwest region is the beautiful bride for investors.

The diversity of the five states in the region – Lagos,Osun,Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti – lies at the heart of its rapid economic growth. Despite the recession, the region’s food requirements have increased, just as the demand for quality.

Many governments are courting private involvement. For instance, the Oyo State government and China Polaris Group are to establish $2billion Polaris Pacesetter Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Oluyole Local Government Area.Governor, Abiola Ajimobi said 1,000 hectares, which lie on Ibadan-Lagos Expressway, had been provided for the first phase of the FTZ, which would cost $500 million.

Ajimobi, who described the project as ambitious, said it would have a lot of multiplier effects in repositioning the state. He said the FTZ would be the industrial hub of the country and West Africa with potential for employment generation, wealth creation and technological advancement.

He said the good news also is that in the region, governments have recognised that agriculture is not only for poverty alleviation; it is a sector, where governments, farmers, and the private sector recognises the need to co-invest to increase productivity and production, add value to produce.

Samtani and Lokpobiri

Consequently, the region has been transforming its agricultural sector due to increase productivity as more land is being cultivated. So far, the nation’s poultry and aqua consumption should hit two million tonnes and 2.3 million tonnes, with major consumption coming from Lagos.

Now the country suffers from severe overfishing and Nigerians can no longer gets sufficient nutrition from freshwater.

This, coupled with an increase in demand for fish, brought along by a surging population and higher incomes, has created excess demand that can no longer be met domestically.

Aquaculture, feed industries, fish hatcheries and processing factories are among the sectors that have been opened up by the government to investors. In Oyo, where incomes and living standards are on the rise, there is ample evidence of growing consumer demand for fish and poultry products. For most of aquaculture’s history, production was of a small-scale, artisan nature. This has started to change with the involvement of companies that are players in the global seafood market.

Cashing in on the investment opportunities, critical investments are being made by the organised private sector.

Private sector organisations have moved to the region to set up integrated fish and poultry businesses – breeding, feed milling, commercial farming and processing. One of such is Triton Group of Companies. To attract investors, the governments are building exclusive zones to ensure continuity, simplify investment procedures and grant tax incentives on imported raw materials.

Triton Group Chairman, Ashvin Samtani, is one of the advocates for the new vision. He believes the governments are making the right decisions to invest in agriculture. Samtani is among private partners ready to invest in the region’s agricultural sector. Triton Group,a global conglomerate, which took off in 1995, has made its mark in poultry and fisheries in which it has invested heavily to bring state-of-the-art technology to bear. Its projects are located in Lagos, Agbara, Iwo, Gambari and Asejire. The Iwo project covers 75 acres while Gambari is 5,000 acres.

Asejire with 50 acres hosts a viable tilapia production facility, with cage culture at the dam. The Iwo farm is completed while the Gambari, the most ambitious project of the group, is ongoing. The first phase comprising nursery and grow out ponds for catfish has been completed and the production is in full swing, while the second phase is expected to be completed by March 31, next year, gaining a total production output at 10,000 MT per year.

Samtani said the Gambari farm include a fully integrated fish farm involving poultry and planting of crops to enable them produce their own feed. The investment strategy of the Triton Group, he said, is to create 400 jobs.

According to him, Triton’s aquaculture investment provides alot of benefits to the economy.

Samtani said the company is focused on seafood, poultry and aquaculture.

He said: “The Triton Group is involved in the development of green houses, nursery ponds for juveniles as well as growing out ponds for the development of the nation’s fish industry.”

He stressed the need for the government to partner the group to invest in artisanal fishing and shrimp farming, adding that land had already been acquired for the training of Nigerians in fishing.

The company hopes to bring its technology, systems, and skills—as well as its impact investment model—to other states where overfishing has become a bif issue.

With its production in Gambari and other places, the company wants to focus on the retail and the wholesale markets in other parts of the country.

Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development Heineken Lokpobiri, who inaugurated Gambari‘s integrated farm, said Nigeria needs to farm more fish to meet increased demand.

According to him, aquaculture is most likely to meet the growing demand for animal products with the nation’s suffering a yearly deficit of two million metric tonnes of fish supply yearly.

Highlighting the need for increased consumption of farmed fish, Lokpobiri said the government was ready to provide incentives for investors and support Gambari in food production and job creation.

He said the project has created 400 jobs, increased local fish production by100,000 metric tonnes, and is boosting tilapia and catfish exports to the United States and Europe.

For him, the business makes a huge difference to women and men who are benefitting from it in one way or the other.

Triton Group Director of Production, Mr. Yashpal Jain, explained that the Gambari project was established to boost local production and reduce fish imports.

Jain explained the company is growing the African catfish, of the Clarias Gariepinus species in ponds. The site will also host a feedmill for group’s export products, such as cashew.

The company explained that the aqua feed plant will produce feeds for all kinds of fish.

Chief Executive, AgroNigeria, Richard-Mark Mbaram, said the governments in the region took some steps to promote food development, including private sector investment. He said Triton Group’s investment would boost Nigeria’s fisheries.