In its quest to build the capacity of smallholder farmers across the country, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has entered into a partnership agreement with some local and international agencies, The Nation has learnt.
Confirming this development recently was the Acting Executive Director/Chief Executive, NEPC, Mr. Abdullahi Sidi-Aliyu.
Sidi-Aliyu who gave a keynote address during the Equipment Presentation and Training on Best Practices in Cashew Processing for value addition and Food Safety in Ogun State, while justifying the need for the programme, said it is part of concerted efforts by the federal government to support and enhance technological/technical skills of smallholder producers of agricultural produce using cocoa, cashew and sesame seed to complement the NEPC collaboration with the Centre for the Promotion of Import from Developing Countries (CBI) of Netherlands on value chain processes in the three products subsectors. Besides, he said the collaboration with the CBI will also ensure exposure to the Europe market.
The NEPC boss who was represented by Mrs. Evelyn Obidike, Director, Policy and Strategy, NEPC, while justifying the support for smallholder farmers said, “The NEPC has established that the SMEs are the future of this country and that if we get it right from the base they are the people that would provide the ingredients, the finished products, the will be acceptable and will be a premium product of the niche market. So we want to start and tap it from the base.”
On the possibility of creating over 6, 000 jobs from the initial pilot scheme, she said: “Definitely, cashew when you are talking about value addition in cashew, it’s a job spinner right from the cracking of the nuts, the gathering and the processing into kernels, and then the finishing is a whole chain that needs a lot of hands. And to let you know that about 85 per cent of the jobs are done by women. And you see that it is a sector that supports the vulnerable groups, and the bottom of the pyramid.”
On the modus operandi being deployed, she said, the Council is doing it on a need-basis. “We are taking three sectors as a pilot. Cocoa which is did last week in Akure, Ondo state and cashew in Ogun and sesame seeds in Nasarawa. These are all pilots and we are looking at the states to key in and then we will be able to expand to the rest of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
An elated Sidi-Aliyu who spoke overwhelmingly of the economic potential of the cashew subsector, said: “Best economic practices and the equipment are very critical in getting premium products for the niche market and that is why we are collaborating with the CBI, Netherlands to teach us about the processing and the way to do it in terms of certification, as well as exposure.”
Also speaking at the occasion, Ogun state Commissioner for Commerce, Otunba Bimbola Ashiru, Ashiru, who was represented by the Director, Commerce, Chief Ogunti Kayode, Deputy Director of Produce, while lauding the organisers of the event, said such could have multiplier effects, especially in Ogun State which is gradually becoming the nation’s industrial hub as evidence in the growing level of businesses, especially foreign direct investment was enough motivation for the state government to continue to lend all necessary support.
Also speaking in an interview, Tunde Odunuga, MD/CEO of Abod Investment Limited, a company that has pioneered innovation in cashew processing in the country, said he was inspired to go into cashew processing observed that: “The Indians were buying cashew nuts raw and taking it to their country and they now process and re-export to the US. And I just said let’s try and see what we can do in Nigeria. I’m an agriculturist and I also have engineering background too. I have done this for 20 years. I stated small. Now we have over 40 staff. We export to China, other distributors sell in Angola. We have distributors nationwide. In a year we do as much as 1, 000 tons, which is in excess of N200million.”
The highpoint of the occasion was the official unveiling of the cashew processing machine by the NEPC boss.