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The Agro-Industrial Parks Initiative of the present administration is a deliberate effort to focus on agriculture, agribusiness and agro-industrialization of the state. This involves the establishment of a centralized geographical area for agro-processing, agribusiness, marketing and value adding activities supported by a dedicated concentration of infrastructural facilities and amenities. In other words, it is a unique high impact one-stop agribusiness environment. This is aimed at developing a sustainable roadmap to bring Delta State out of the woods, out of overdependence on the oil and gas sector, ensure food security and promote job and wealth creation in the state.
With its huge agricultural potentials of about 500,000 ha underdeveloped arable land, crop production, livestock production, especially Poultry and Piggery and great potentials for aquaculture as a result of its fresh water resources, Delta State is set for an agricultural revolution. To harness these great agricultural potentials and in line with its central policy thrust under its five-point SMART Agenda of “Strategic Wealth Creation and Provision of Jobs for all Deltans”, His Excellency, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, is determined to establish agro-industrial parks in three locations in the state. It is pertinent to note that to champion this course, the Governor on 15thFebruary, 2016, constituted an 8-member “Working Committee on Agro-Industrial Parks” headed by the Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof. Eric Eboh.
The agro-industrialization plan of the state is structured into three cluster development areas: -Uzere Agro-Industrial Area,
-Abraka-Umutu Agro-Industrial Area and
- Ogwashi-Uku Agro-Industrial Area.
The choice of these areas is based on availability of water, accessibility to national grid, road access, topography and cost of opening up the areas. Each agro-industrial epicentre will be propelled by an anchor investor devoted to agricultural value chain development activities including agro-processing, commercial farming, outgrower schemes and market linkages. These will in turn stimulate large scale crop and livestock production by people within the catchment areas. The parks will have delineated areas for agro-industry, technical services and workshop, warehousing/commerce, residential and conferences. The target industries for the parks will be processors/manufacturers of products based on agricultural raw materials available or can be grown within the catchment areas. The target processors for the agro-industrial park consist of the following:
-Rice mills and rice flour manufacturers;
-Cassava chips, flour, starch and garri producers;
-Banana/plantain flour producers;
-Palm oil and palm oil based products producers;
-Wood mills, paper pulp mills, wood based industries;
-Slaughter houses for beef, broiler, pork and related products;
-Dried or picked fruits and vegetable; and
-Fresh and processed vegetables
The benefits of establishing agro-industrial parks in the state have multiplier effects. It is hoped that as the parks develop, there will be a progression to a second layer of processing based on the materials produced in the parks. For instance, by-products as corn/grain shells, cassava fibres, and rice husk can be used as raw materials by a feed mill for livestock. Through the planned siting of agro-industries and agribusiness on the same location, the agro-industrial park will help investors to gain economy of scales, seamless operations and increase profitability. This will be achieved by sharing common infrastructure, amenities and facilities. In addition, each will accommodate about 30-60 medium to large processors and manufacturers. This will in turn generate about 3000-6000 direct jobs and an estimated 400 jobs will be created in management, maintenance and supply services. Also, income will be created for about 5,000 farm families and an additional 50,000 farm households directly and indirectly. Of course, this will not only transform the economic landscape of the people within the catchment areas, but that of the entire Delta State.
Applying the criteria for choice of location, Ogwashi-Uku was chosen for the pilot project which is estimated to cost US $30m. Interestingly, the feasibility study of the agro-industrial park measuring 220,217 hectares has been completed with the production of a business plan and a layout design. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the preferred anchor investor, MIRAM Group, followed by a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with the Delta State Government is being negotiated and will soon be finalized. Currently, the State Government is consulting with the host community and stakeholders of Ogwashi-Uku to acquire the land.
The Delta State Government is encouraged to put all necessary resources together to ensure that this initiative becomes a reality. The agro-industrial parks project when executed and fully operational will diversify the economy, generate employment for the youths, be a haven for investors, ensure food security, enhance incomes and earning power of existing farmers, make agriculture attractive, engender the development of entrepreneurship and increase the internally generated revenue (IGR) of Delta State. Traditional rulers, elders, host communities, youths and all relevant stakeholders should support the State Government to realize its job and wealth creation objectives through agriculture.