In his welcome address, the Chairman of the company, Mr. Ola Rosiji said his company currently engaged over 8,000 farmers located within Ogun and Oyo states, providing indirect employment to more than 40,000 people. According to him his company had earlier expanded its farm support services to farmers in her bid to increase the income of farmers through the provision of agronomy packaged practices, improved variety, seed planting, mechanization and harvesting support. In addition toethanol, the plantwill produce carbon dioxide (CO2) used in various industries such as the soft drinks Industry and starch which is used in glue and glucose industries, he added.
He said: “Having pioneered the development of the technology and know-how and having proven that cassava can be used to produce ENA of international standard quality, we are now in the process of developing other projects which will be located within the cassava belt.Our aim is to reduce dependence on imported ENA with the resultant savings in foreign exchange, creation of jobs and improvement in farmer’s income.”
Earlier the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. AkinwumiAdesina(who was represented by the Ministry’s Technical Adviser on cassava initiatives, MrsOluwatoyin Olatunji) praised the initiative, noting that it is a record breaking event for the world’s largest producer of cassava and a testimony of the success of the Federal Government policy on cassava. He said: “Cassava is a commodity in focus with value addition at five points including the confectionery and pharmaceutical sectors and a massive job creator.
He regretted that before now though the country was the largest producer of cassava globally it had no place in the international market unlike a countrylike Thailand that controlled 84 per cent of the global market even though it is the third largest producer. The minister said the resultant effect isthe rapid growth of the Thailand’s economy to the point that unemployment is merely 0.4 per cent unlike Nigeria which has a huge unemployment figure.
Adesina noted that government intervention incassava comes with different advantages such as the creation of jobs for millions of Nigerians while at the same time growing the small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) engaged in that sector.
The Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun said the nation can only record economic growth, sustainability and security through initiatives such as this where a lot of people are gainfully employed and farming made attractive because farmers know they have a ready market for their products.
Governor Amosun further said thatvalue addition to cassava will reduce the dependence on foreign exchange, stressing that any nation that fails to develop her agricultural sector can neither grow her economy nor her people. The Governor noted that in Malaysia cassava has been put to 23 uses, which has led to the growth of the economy making it one of the largest in Asia.
He encouraged the company not to relent in her Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the community in order to ensure harmony and prosperity for all stakeholders and also encouraged traditional rulers and communities to be ready to offer their land to credible investors for value addition. At the end, they stand to benefit immensely.
He advised the federal government to live up to her responsibilities by providing the needed infrastructure to encourage industrialists to thrive while pledging the readiness of his administration to continue to provide the necessary infrastructure and enabling environment for industries to prosper.