Since the return of democratic government in 1999, one sub-sector which has been undermined by the political elite is the agriculture and agro-allied industries. In the last 18 years, politicians have paid lip service to agriculture and agribusiness. The worrisome aspect is the nonchalant attitude of the three tiers of government toward agriculture.
In the real sense lack luster approach to national agricultural management remains the bane of our lack of industrial development. The nation’s blessed arable land from the North to South and East to West is grossly underutilized.
According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Nigeria has no basis for the annual progressional number of unemployed youths and recorded food deficit, if adequate commitment and resources were deployed to the agricultural sub-sector.
To the organization, the nation’s current food deficit followed dismal national agricultural policy, poor appreciation of the national agricultural potential and lack of commitment by the political elite to toward agriculture and agribusiness. The FAO is of the opinion that irrespective of the huge petrol dollars earned so far since 1970s, agriculture remains Nigeria’s cash cow.
However, the Delta State government recently took the bull by the horn to prepare its citizens a life beyond crude oil and the attendant polemics’. The consensus policy document of the States Executive Council released on November 12, 2017 showed that the Ifeanyi Okowa led government has concluded plans to position his administration toward sustainable mass mobilization of the people back to the land.
The strategic agricultural and agribusiness road map as contained in the Delta States Executive Council policy document provides for the establishment of common industrial infrastructure to leap frog into mass youth employment, while leveraging on new agricultural businesses.
Mr Patrick Ukah, Delta State Commissioner for Information described the policy as a quiet agricultural revolution aim primarily at harnessing the rich agricultural potential of the state and the vast knowledge of Deltans in wholesome agriculture and agribusiness.
“Our agricultural policy directive is moderated more by the developed world aggressive climate induced engineering targeting the complete elimination of fossil fuel by 2025 and more importantly mobilizing Deltans into mechanized agriculture and agribusiness driven industries,” he said.
Ukah explained that government commitment in giving the policy a human face followed the executive council recent approval of N7.04bn (about 22.7 million dollars) for the establishment of an Agro-Industrial Park at Aboh Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha South Local Government Area.
Specifically, the Delta State government expects the agro-industrial park to play an important role in GDP growth, job creation, foreign exchange earnings, and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development over the coming years.
Overall the focus of the agro-industrial park development strategy is to bring about the accelerated structural transformation of the state’s economy through graduated industrialization, leveraging the share of the industrial sector of GDP and the GDP share of the agricultural based manufacturing sub-sector.
In value terms, the development of agro-industries parks in Delta State creates the stimulants and opportunity to accelerate economic development and achieve its industrialization goals. Primarily the government’s state executive council agro-industrial park initiative remains a potent vehicle for the structural transformation of the Delta State economy The initiative is also expected to help pave the way for the realization of Nigeria’s Vision 2020 of becoming a leading manufacturing hub in Africa.
The agro-industrial park will also promote economic diversification and growth of the state, including creating more than 5,000 jobs along the agricultural value chain. It will also provide common dedicated infrastructure and facilities for agro-processing, value addition and agribusiness as a means to improving the ease-of-doing business.
According to the commissioner, the park will be executed through Public-Private Partnership involing the Delta State government, the Israel based Mirai Group and Norsworthy Investments Ltd. Under the policy, part of the money will be deployed to the construction of Ayakoromo Bridge across River Forcados in Burutu Local Government Area.
The Ayakoromo Bridge, Ukah insisted will link the riverine and upland communities in the state toward sustainable economic and social integration. He said that with the construction of the bridge, Burutu Town, which hitherto had not been accessible by road, would become a beehive of social and economic activities with vehicular movements. .
According to him, government focus on roads also is to facilitate the easy movement of raw materials to the agro-industrial park and various markets nationwide. The topography of the state, the commissioner said provides the impetus for the executive council to appreciate the complimentary importance of roads in agriculture and agribusiness.
“Our mission with the new agro-industrial policy document is to turn the state into a mechanized agrarian community. We hope that with the agricultural leadership provided by the state, the organized private sector will in a few years to take over the initiative and drive of the state’s agricultural revolution”.