In a bid to transform the economy through agriculture, Kwara state government has signed MOU on rice cultivation, processing and packaging with Vasolar Consortium, of Spain in Ilorin, Kwara state capital.
The state governor Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed stated that “Our vision has always been to drive our economy under a public-private partnership. On the strength of that, we have agreed that our contribution will be in terms of services which may be capitalized or not capitalized. But we do not want to take any interest in any investment beyond 30 per cent. We will be taking 30 per cent equity contribution.
“The one that was proposed by the late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was financed and it did not go beyond finance. We have not felt the impact of any rice processing mill resulting from that pronouncement today.
For us here, we are pursuing this under a public-private partnership which will not only create the platform for sustainability but also to enable us have the desired proper management supported from the private sector’s experience to give the required management skill”
He added that “even though the federal government is doing rice processing in Kwara, a second one will not be too much. We have over 167 million Nigerians and today $2.6bn is spent on rice importation. The rice production will be centered in the axis where our soil mostly suits its production which are areas along the banks of River Niger. Rice production requires water. So we will be taking advantage of water location in River Niger in Edu and Patigi Local Government Areas and also part of Ifelodun will be involved. These are the axis that will form the hub for rice production and processing,” he added.
According the governor, “the most critical part of farming is when there is MOU. There is a clearly spelt out arragements. The next thing is to move to the land. Once the land is there and the money is available, you move on. There is a specified time frame to start.
‘They will be bringing in about N70bn over a period of four years. We will be contributing about 7m Euros as a kind of security or comfort to let the farmers know our serious sense of commitment. The state will be giving them 20,000 hectares which will be 5 years annually for four years,” he added.
However, the Managing Director, Vasolar Consortium, Mr. Ruben Parejo said he was blessed with good climate, arable land and human resources to transform agriculture.
He stated that agriculture is a potent sector that would transform the economy. He advised that it is not good for any country to depend more on importation for its food needs, adding that Nigerians needed to adopt improved and modern agricultural system.
“Modern agriculture is not all about money but to create good infrastructure. We need the federal government to collaborate with the state government. We need the federal government to develop agricultural infrastructure in Nigeria. Banks should also support agricultural projects. We are committed to implementing vigorously and according to international best practices, our own part of the MoU,” Parejo said.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director, Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Segun Agbaje, said, “Agriculture probably is the only way forward for a country like Nigeria. It is a big step for employment. It is a big step for self food production and import substitution. On our own part as a bank, we will do all we can to assist this great state in performance of this great initiative.”