Teragro Juice Plant gives Benue Farmers a Lift
Good times are here for small holder farmers in Benue State. Thanks to Teragro Benfruit Juice concentrate plant, Makurdi. Since the company which produces orange, mango and pineapple fruit concentrates opened for business a few months ago, citrus farmers and pineapple growers have found a ready market for their produce. And ever since then, their incomes have risen considerably. In the past, wastage was a huge challenge due to transport and lack of storage facilities. But Teragro, a subsidiary of Transcorp and the first of its kind juice concentrate production facility in Nigeria, has risen to this challenge. The plant is the product of a deal between Transcorp Plc and the Benue State government.
While commissioning the plant recently, President Goodluck Jonathan said to achieve the vision 20:20 dream, the country must industrialise and the private sector must play a key role.
He explained that the plant was an opportunity for Nigeria to actualise its dream of processing citrus to meet local consumption and for export. The president urged all state governments to come up with policies and programmes to create an enabling environment for the private sector to operate. “All the states have products they can sell, they should look at areas where they have comparative advantage and work with the private sector” he said.
The president said his administration would revamp the sector for economic transformation. “Before we discovered oil, we were living with agriculture. We should go back to the good old days. Then we did not borrow money but we have resources that can generate money to support the country”, he said.
President Jonathan told the gathering that Nigeria is an agrarian country blessed with good weather and arable land. He therefore urged Nigerians to embrace agriculture and thanked Governor Gabriel Suswam for creating an enabling environment for investors. The president also thanked the people of Benue for maintaining peace to attract investors.
President Jonathan thanked the Chairman of Transcorp, Mr. Tony Elumelu and his team for helping to improve rural livelihoods in Benue.
In his remarks, Governor Suswam, explained that the state government built the factory but could not operate it until Transcorp took it and turned it around. He said “we are happy this is happening today. This is the President’s transformation agenda that we are witnessing. We have a lot of orange and mango farms in Benue but in the past, our farmers could not make much. This factory will do a lot to the economy of the state. As the bread basket of Nigeria, this is where agric. money should be invested because we are not just feeding Africa but the whole world”.
While stressing the need for states to collaborate to boost food production in the country, he urged potential investors to invest in the state as there are other factories across the state begging for attention.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Mr Elumelu, thanked the President and said the facility was an answer to the President’s call to transform the country through agriculture. He said the plant has the capacity to produce 30,000metric tonnes of fruit juice concentrate annually noting that in the second year, they intend to get into the international market.
He said the plant will provide a ready market for farmers as well as a dependable source of concentrate for fruit juice manufacturers in the country. He told the gathering that already businessmen in Europe are showing interest in the product.
While thanking the state governor for encouraging investment in the state, he called on other state governors to play a role and create employment for young people. “This plant will create employment for our people in Benue. This is what good public private partnership can do. The state governor encouraged us and tarred the road to this place. From now on, we donot expect our people to have wastage, our local farmers will produce more”, he said.
During a tour of the plant, the Managing Director, Dr Jide Adedeji explained the production processes. According to him, the factory is capable of producing in large commercial quantities, orange juice and mango puree concentrates. He said, “we are capable of producing 30,000 metric tonnes of concentrates annually.” He explained that the product will provide a more cost effective alternative for local manufacturers and even translate to more affordable prices for consumers. “By processing domestically grown fruits, thousands of farmers will enjoy long term increases in their standards of living, making a contribution to rural economic transformation and job creation” he said.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of Transcorp, Mr Obinna Ufudo, said the plant is generating employment and improving the livelihoods of small-holder farmers. He said “Benue State is the number one producer of orange in Nigeria and Nigeria is the second largest producer of citrus in the world. We do not export; we just allow the oranges to rot away and then use millions of naira to import concentrates. With this plant, more farmers will go into the business because they have a ready market for their produce”.
He explained that his company decided to go into food processing because it is the missing link for Nigeria to become self-sufficient in food production. He expressed his company’s readiness to partner other states to enable Nigeria achieve food security. According to him, the concentrate which has two years shelf-life has no preservative because of the technology used and the materials for production.
Interestingly, demand for fruit juice in Nigeria is growing and it will keep growing as the population and incomes grow.
Many smallholder farmers in Benue and other parts of the country have a potential for producing more and selling to Teragro. Dr Adedeji said the company is committed to producing high quality concentrates both for the Nigerian market and for export.