Edo investor Okunbo unveils $750m farm

Mexico's San Carlos Group, owned by the Grupo Cabal of Carlos Cabal Peniche, also has a 2,000 ha banana plantation project with Rivers State in Ogonoi and a 3,400 ha plantation joint venture with Enugu State in the communities of Agbudu, Ihe and Enyimba in Awgu Local Government Area, Ama Nkpunato and Achi in Oji River Local Government Area and Umabi in Udi Local Government Area.
The Nation | 17 March 2016

Edo investor Okunbo unveils $750m farm
A $750 million farm project with an initial investment of $300 million targeted at creating 25,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs, has been unveiled in Benin, the Edo State capital.
Unveiling the project in a presentation to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the investor, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, explained that it has been his dream vision  to go into such project.
Okunbo, who introduced his Technical and Financial partners from the San Carlos Group in Mexico, explained that the farm, located at Odighi and Odiguetue in Ovia Northeast Local Government Area, has already taken off with an $11 million on a 20-hectare Green House vegetables farm. The products are to be exported.
He said: “I want to present to you what I call my vision, my legacy, something that I have been nurturing in the last four to five years.
“Why this is very important to me is, as a pilot I conquered my profession at the age of 30 and I left. I went into shipping. With over 60 vessels, I have conquered the sea.
“Now, I want to conquer the land before the land takes me.”
According to the presentation, the farm is expected to produce cash and arable crops such as cocoa, pineapples, pawpaw and banana.
Other products are livestocks, including cattle, poultry and piggery, just as it will also engaged in the production of tilapia – all targeted at export and meeting local protein and milk requirement.
The farm also has plan for Agro Industrial Park and Airstrip to evacuate products to Europe and elsewhere.
Responding, Oshiomhole commended Okunbo for the initiative and expressed his delight at the project, saying “one way to help our communities is how to create jobs”.
“The objective of Wells Farm complements the Federal Government’s policy on food security and jobs creation. I think you are on the right path and I am excited that you come from this state.
“Our government is committed to supporting you. Capt, you can take that for granted. I am also happy to note from your presentation that it is a diversified farm.”
Calling for encouragement of local investors, the governor explained that Edo State was planning to create a one-stop desk on issues relating to agriculture.
He told the Mexican partners that despite the country’s challenges, returns on investment in Nigeria were higher than elsewhere.

News Agency of Nigeria | 17 June 2015

By Mbadiwe Okwor, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Economists recall that agriculture remained the mainstay of the country’s economy before the discovery of oil in Nigeria.
They note that the discovery of oil affected agriculture so much that people played down agricultural activities to the detriment of the nation’s economy.
On the other hand, they observe that what is heartwarming is the new crave to return to the farms to once more move up the country’s revenue in the face of dwindling global oil fortunes.
According to them, this development, perhaps, informs the new focus on commercial agriculture with the establishment of different funds to revive some of the moribund agricultural programmes.
Some of the crops on focus are cocoa, cotton, oil palm, groundnuts, pineapple and food crops such as rice cassava and corn, among others.
They observe further that pineapple growing in commercial quantity was done by small-holder farmers who tried to meet local demands as it was not considered an export crop as at that time.
Pineapple farmers, however, note that the decision of Enugu State to collaborate with San Carlos Enterprises Ltd. to set up a pineapple farm has put Nigeria on the world map of pineapple growers.
The company, a joint venture between the state government and a private investor, is a Nigerian registered company.
Enugu State owns 40 per cent while the private investor, a Mexican, owns 60 per cent.
Mr Obiora Ugwo, the General Manager of the company, said it acquired 3,400 hectares of land from six communities in the state in 2012.
The communities are Agbudu, Ihe and Enyimba in Awgu Local Government Area; Ama Nkpunato and Achi in Oji River Local Government Area and Umabi in Udi Local Government Area.
Ugwo said that the company had only cleared 300 hectares of the land and actually planted pineapples in 250 hectares with each hectare holding 50,000 suckers.
He said that the company deployed more than 200 workers to the farm in the second quarter of 2013, explaining that 95 per cent of the workers was from the contributing communities.
He said that the farm started test-harvesting in October 2014 and started exporting to Europe in December.
The general manager said that the European market was very large, especially during the summer and that the company had been meeting the demand the customers.
He, nonetheless, observed that in the recent time, the company had not been able to clear new grounds in the acquired land because the original land owners became agitated over non-settlement of their compensation claims.
Ugwo said the land owners became restive when they realised the end of the immediate-past administration.
``They were afraid that a new government might not continue with the negotiations for the compensation,’’ he said.
A member of Ihe community in Awgu Local Government Area, who did not want his name in print, said the state government had refused to pay the compensation after a committee it set up concluded ``enumeration of the valuables.
``We are not complaining about the land but they have to compensate us for our trees and crops they are destroying.
``They have done enumeration, we want our money because the new government will come and start all over again.’’
Ugwo admitted that the state government disagreed with the committee that enumerated the valuables and had not made payments to the land owners.
Some members of the community noted that before the end of the immediate-past administration, the Agbudu and Enyimba communities protested the non-payment of the compensations by marching to the State House.
They claimed that the state government allegedly lured them to open accounts with a commercial bank for the payment but that nothing was paid thereafter.
Ugwo explained that the company was facing the challenge of lack of infrastructure in the area.
``The company runs its facilities on generators because it has not been connected to the public power grid; this affects the company’s cooling system for export.
``Although its cooling plant is still under construction, it uses special containers designed to keep the fruits at some cooling level before export.
``The farm is accessed through three major roads via Ihe, Umabi and Isu Awa but the extension to the farm is still under construction; this limits the type of vehicle that can access it,’’ he said.
Ugwo also listed government bureaucracy as part of the problems confronting the company, alleging that import waivers granted to it for certain agricultural equipment did not usually come when needed.
``This forces the company to import its implements at commercial rates, in spite of this, the company plans to expand the farm beyond pineapple cultivation,’’ he said.
Ugwo said it would introduce cattle breeding and build a ranch, observing that breeding buffalo would produce more milk and meat for Nigerians.
``It is planned that the cattle, expected to weigh 1,000 kilogrammes at maturity, would feed on the pineapple plants after two harvests and fertilise the land with dung preparatory for re-planting.
``The company has also acquired 250 hectares of land at Ibite Olo in Ezeagu Local Government Area for a banana plantation. It plans to export the bananas from the farm.
``Already, it has begun the production of tomatoes from Ogbeke Nike in Enugu East Local Government Area.
``The greenhouse tomato farm produces high quality fresh tomatoes with a longer shelf-life than the ones produced by local farmers in the state,’’ he said.
By and large, observers note that with more than 200 villagers employed as workers in the company and the rate of its expansion, San Carlos Enterprises Ltd. has opened a new vista in the development of Enugu State.(NANFeatures)
**If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)


The Cable | 2 September 2015

by Busayo Sotunde
Pineapples grown on state-owned Enugu-San Carlos 150-hectare pineapple farm will begin to make their way to Europe for export this year, state commissioner for information, Chuks Ugwoke, has said.
The 150-hectare farm is a joint venture (JV) owned by the Enugu state government and Mexican farming conglomerate, San Carlos.
Approved by the Enugu state government in 2012, the JV was established for commercial production of pineapple for both local consumption and export.
Speaking Monday’s state executive council meeting presided over by Governor Sullivan Chime at the Government House, Ugwoke said the government was considering expanding its agricultural business on the farm, as the council had approved the sum of N880.9m for the introduction of banana and livestock, particularly cattle.
Other investments include the sum of N1.1bn for the completion of construction work on two major inter-local government rural roads in parts of the state and about N48.8m for the implementation of the health commodity supply in Awgu, Enugu East, Igbo-Eze South, Nkanu West, Nsukka and Udi local government areas.
To encourage agribusiness in the state, Ugwoke said the state council directed that a bill should be drafted for a law to upgrade the State College of Agriculture and Agro-Entrepreneurship in Iwollo Oghe, as well as the Enugu State Polytechnic.
If the bill is passed into law by the state house of assembly, it will reduce the bottlenecks of seeking admission into higher institution of learning and also facilitate investment from other parts of the country.

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