Against the background of Nigeria’s economic vulnerability, president of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has stated that the current efforts of the federal government at diversifying the economy to an agriculture centered one remains the viable solution to creating a healthy economy.
Dangote, who was speaking at the weekend during a meeting with some businessmen from the Asia, in Lagos, said it was because of his belief in the government approach at re-energising the economy and make it export oriented that made him to step up his investment in agriculture especially in the area of food sufficiency.
According to him, Nigeria has wasted so much foreign exchange importing foods that ordinarily should be produced locally and even exported and that until a new approach at redirecting the economy from import dependent to an export one, which the present government is leading, no meaningful changes can happen.
Dangote said, “We have invested massively in rice, sugar, dairy products, and tomatoes. Our rice-out grower scheme will produce rice by next year that reduce our rice import to nearly zero because Nigeria imports more than half of the rice it consumes. We have expanded our sugar operations with our operations in Tonga in Nasarawa in addition to Numan sugar projects where sugarcane is cultivated planted for raw sugar production that will be refined.
“Some months ago, we laid the foundation for the construction of ultra-modern rice processing integrated plant that will process 16 metric tons of paddy rice in one hour, by the time you multiply this by the number of hours and days it operates, you will understand that this is huge. The interesting thing about investment in agric is that apart from food production sufficiency, the job potential is unquantifiable.”
He added that “his company was investing massively in agribusiness, promoting industrialisation through the backward integration process to ensure Nigeria becomes self-reliant in food production in good time and save it of the much needed foreign exchange hitherto being spent on importation.
He further said that, “We are producing the raw materials needed in our factories. In the sugar sector, we developed a sugar backward integration project plan targeted at the production of 1.5MT/PA from various sites across Nigeria, in the next 10 years.
“We have an out-grower scheme, enough paddy rice will be grown and harvested for processing. Some 20,000 outgrowers expected to produce an average of 180,000 tons of paddy rice. We are presently building rice processing mills in Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger States in the first phase.”
Dangote explained further that in the second phase, other mills would be built in Nasarawa, Kogi, and other states, noting that with the six mills, the company would achieve a capacity of 700,000 metric tons per annum of par boiled rice
He noted that “his Dangote rice company will become largest rice producer in Africa, a bold step in making Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production.”
Dangote praised the federal government’s economic recovery and growth plan, saying his investments in refinery, petrochemical and fertiliser production were in that direction.