Benue State has been pencilled down as one of the seven states in the country to benefit from the establishment of special agro-industrial processing zones to be funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
This initiative, which was aimed at bringing together the farming and processing community in the country under one roof to add value to their produce, had been producing at great cost and was expected to gulp $1 billion over the next three years.
At a meeting, governors of the seven participating states of Benue, Kebbi, Sokoto, Ondo, Yobe, Gombe and Ekiti, as well as those of Anambra and Delta, which also indicated interest in the project, decided that each state appoint a linkman to invite the AfDB for them to sit down together and map out the plan for the states.
Speaking after the meeting, Benue State Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, who stood in for Governor Samuel Ortom, explained that the initiative by the AfDB was aimed at developing agriculture into an industrial hub and establishing industrial parks or zones in the selected states, to help lift Nigerian farmers out of poverty by giving them appropriate income for their labour.
He further explained that these industrial parks or zones shall consist of plants or factories that produce or process other derivative goods from the primary farm produce of the local farmers.
He said: “There will be more efficient production of agriculture, together with the entire value chain. Farmers will be encouraged to produce according to world standard and the crops shall be duly certified.
“Take soya bean for example; you will produce it according to world standard, to be certified as globally acceptable. At the same time, there will be plants that will produce various forms of products that originate from soya bean such as soya milk, soya oil, and soya cake for animal consumption.
Now, all these factories/plants will be in one industrial zone,” Abounu said.
He expressed joy that Benue State was one of the benefitting states, adding that the state would take full advantage of the opportunity offered by the AfDB to expand and develop the state’s economy, which was anchored on agriculture-driven industrialisation.
He said the AfDB initiative, would also promote efficient agricultural production with the entire value chain; and help farmers get value for their produce. He announced that Governor Ortom had appointed Steve Amase as the state linkman for the establishment of the agro-industrial processing zone.