The Chairman Harvest Feeds Agro Processing, Goke Adeyemi, has called on the Federal Government to save the over N6 billion invested by processors in cassava starch processing from collapse.
Adeyemi who spoke with Nigerian Tribune, said the continued importation of cassava starch into the Nigerian market is one of the biggest challenges local processors are facing, as they have thousands of tons of unsold cassava starch in their stores.
He said the cost of production is very high because of inadequate power supply, low yield of cassava and other factors, making the cost of their products higher than that of the imported ones.
“There are two things that we have been asking them (government) to do, we requested that they should increase the import duty of starch into Nigeria.
“About 5 years ago it was about 10 per cent, we advised the government to increase it to 30 per cent because by increasing the import duty on starch, the price will go up, and when that happens, it will dissuade importation.
“We are not requesting for outright ban, but there is nothing wrong in banning, if you ban to increase the local production your own people, there is nothing wrong with that, so we need protection from government to protect our investment.
“We have invested over N6 billion into this industry, we cannot afford not to make reasonable revenue from our investment. Right now I am employing close to 400 workers in my factory, every month I pay close to N25 million salaries, all these things are the things that help the economy”.
Furthermore, Adeyemi suggested that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to review the lending to farmers and Agro processors in order to ease doing business.
“We know that sometime ago the Central Bank of Nigeria came up with the idea on how to stimulate agro processing in the country, we commend them for that, we are also asking for more, we are asking for a soft single digit interest loan.
“Because of the crisis in the world, the interest rates were increased, we want them to still look at it as a special intervention, so that the interest regime in our industry can be pegged at a particular level for 5 to 10 years”, he noted.
On power generation, the processor advised the government to explore off-grid power generation and solar energy in order to allow processors reduce their cost of production which will invariably reduce the prices of locally processed starch in the market.
“There is something the present Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola mentioned in the recent past that there is off-grid generation of power. We need to do that a lot for agro processing zones in Nigeria.
“Set up off-grid power supply for those agro processing zones and we have several of the agro processing zones in Nigeria. The government needs to support those agro processing zones with off-grid power generation that will make us not dependent on the national grid.
“The government can support processors in the area of solar energy, most of the agro processing industries are not heavy in terms of energy requirement, some of them are below 1 megawatt or 1.5 megawatt, so government can support them in terms of solar power that will support their business because it will be cheaper, it is also green and it will be off national grid.
“There is also the biomass, when you talk about agro processing, there are a lot of biomass and waste generation, so the government can support them to use those biomass or wastes to generate electricity, and they are not very expensive, all we need is the will and the determination to do it”, he added.