* Sea-foods, rice, petrochemicals also on the card
By Codratus Godson
Palm oil and cassava have returned as the key products that would lead Rivers State’s export drive. The FG has listed 22 such crops identified with different states in its one-state-one-crop project.
Rivers State, which made waves with palm oil before coal and crude oil took over in quick succession, has returned to palm produce as number choice in the national project called one-state-one-product (OSOP) export drive scheme.
The Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), which disclosed Thursday, December 10, 2020, in Port Harcourt, said Cassava has also been penciled down as an alternate crop. The state is also to push in sea-foods, rice and petrochemicals.
Rivers State is already a force in petrochemicals as Indorama-Eleme is exporting the products as well as excess urea fertilizer from Port Harcourt through the company’s own jetty at Onne.
The South-South Zonal Coordinator of NEPC, Joe Itah, who announced the choice of Pam produce at a workshop said stakeholders and experts in the palm value chain would be brought together from time to push Rivers State into a major palm produce exporter.
Rivers State is already a big force in palm oil as it has one of the biggest and oldest investors, Siat, which built up the Ubima plantation before the investment was taken over as Rivers State Oil Palm (RISONPALM). It was sold back to Siat in the Chibuike Amaechi years to return to viable and productive ways.
Nigeria is now the fifth largest producer of palm oil and is said to be one of the largest importers too. Rivers State now wants to play big in the value chain.
Rivers State is also a big player in cassava as the Etche, Ikwerre and Ogoni forests witness big cassava farms. The state also established a large-scale cassava processing complex at Afam with 23 satellite semi-processing plants to feed the main plant near Port Harcourt.
The project which was earlier conceptualized by the defunct Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) a joint project with Shell, has been delayed for years due to political crisis but the present administration says it is set to commission it into action.
The project is expected to boost other cassava by-products especially different grades of starch and flour that seem to be sought-after in the international market and with pharmaceutical firms.
Speaking at the event to train exporters, Itah said it is one in the series of developmental programmes lined up by the Council in its effort at diversifying the economic base of the country – to move away from total dependence on crude oil as the country’s mainstay and major source of income.
He went on: “The task of creating new ways, adapting to the non-oil export generating culture, and migrating from an import prone – near total consumerist attitude, to the one of manufacturing exporter, is a difficult one, especially after many years of dependency on oil. This is not made easier by the seeming difficulties around our operating environment.
“The spate of economic uncertainties around most economies of the world has shown us that it was time to really seat up, and even more than ever, seek to do things differently – to enhance the economy of the nation.
“It is in pursuit of this goal that the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has established the One-State-One-Product project which in itself is an offshoot from the Zero Oil Plan Initiative. The Zero Oil Plan Initiative is a Federal government driven economic arrangement enshrined within the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), to develop and promote 22 choice products where Nigeria has comparative and competitive advantage, for export. It was first introduced in 2016 to lift the nation out of the then recession.”
For Rivers State, he said, “The OSOP product is palm oil – with cassava as an alternate product. But there are few more other products of interest in the state that could do well in exports including seafoods, rice and petrochemicals among others.
“The main intention of today’s gathering is to create more awareness on the existence and operations of the OSOP, to engender effective ownership and implementation. The number of participants in today’s event might not cover all players within the product’s value-chain but the engagements are progressive and at different levels. By next year, additional linkage platforms and activities will be arranged, to give stakeholders the leverage to stand stronger in their non-oil exports endeavours.”
For Rivers to fire down with the selected products, NEPC brought in the state’s Commissioner of Commerce and Industry, Clare Nwankpa, to discuss how synergy could be created between Government and the Organized Private Sector (OPS) to enhance economic development in the State.
He stated; “We are also privileged to have other tested resource persons including Director of Agriculture Maurice Ogolo; the Head of Department Finance (DFD) of CBN Augusta Osuya; and Ofon Udofia, the Executive Secretary Institute of Export Operations and Management, among others, to tackle the issues of harnessing potentials and financing exports in these sub-sectors.
The South-south boss equally extended appreciation sister agencies including SON, RMRDC, ADP, NAFDAC, the Nigeria Customs, the Organized Private Sector and exporters for coming to support the course.