Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed this during a SAPZ inception workshop, yesterday, in Abuja, said the aim of the initiative was to improve agricultural value chain, including providing linkages to the regional and international market, and to fast track the economic transformation agenda of the government.
She added that the processing zones would, among others, provide higher incomes, create jobs, and improve livelihood of peasant farmers, while the SAPZ implementation would be carried out in four different zones identified by the AfDB.
Reiterating the commitment of the Finance Ministry to the initiative, she said: “To support the contribution AfDB, the government is setting aside the sum of $500million for the initiative. We shall continue our engagement with AfDB to ensure prompt implementation of the initiative and the ministry of finance is committed to it.”
Similarly, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Nanono, said success of the six processing zones, depends on agricultural mechanisation.Nanono, while declaring open the two-day workshop, maintained that the only way to make the project a reality is for all hands to be on deck.
While commending the AfDB towards the Zones, he also pledged his Ministry’s support to ensure the project comes on stream to boost food production, security, and employment generation, adding that there is no reason for the project to fail this time around.He said: “This project is crucial to the development of this country. I think attempts have been made from where it is taken for these six processing zones, unfortunately it has never been able to take off.
“I am proud and heavily elated that this project is taking off with strong collaboration from African Development Bank.“Nigeria is a major stakeholder in African Development Bank, and also the President of African Development Bank is a son of the soil. So it is a big opportunity now to partake and appreciate this agro processing zone.
“The clustering of farmers in this exercise is very crucial, and also we have to understand that it not clustering the farmers but what the farmers do and what they produce we can have the cluster of processing zones but we may end up lose the process.
“If green is the word then we have excess or surplus to even feed the entire Africa not just the West African Sub-region. But why not see potential challenges or research on those things on agricultural mechanisation to improve yield of what is planted, and then extension workers to guide on how to go about producing these things. These three challenges are there and unless you get them right you can uplift your agricultural production.
“We are trading on the average of 1.5 to two tonnes per hectare across board. But in those countries that we are sighting you are talking of eight to 10 tonnes per hectare. The answer is agriculture mechanisation and is crucial to this cluster of industry we are talking about.”Meanwhile, the Senior Director, AfDB, Ebrima Faal, disclosed that the bank is funding the six SAPZs with $5000 million for a long period.