By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Pacific Ring West Africa, a food company based in Abuja, said it will partner with the Nasarawa State Government, to train 1,500 farmers from the state, for the cultivation of cassava which the company uses as raw material.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Thomas Hirsch, a German, disclosed this while on a courtesy call on Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, on Wednesday.
Hirsch disclosed that his company, in conjunction with the German Embassy’s development agency, the German Industrial Service, will send an expert on tropical agriculture, to train the 1, 500 on modern farm practice and give them the possibility to supply the company as off-takers.
He said his company, which is now exporting cassava chips to Europe, choose Nasarawa State because of it’s abundant land resources, availability of sweet cassava, as well as it’s proximity to the Federal Capital Territory.
“We want to group the farmers, organize them and them, give them the possibility to supply us on a regular basis.
“We will bring them to workshops in Abuja, there is so much the German government can offer through this PPP project,” Hirsch stated.
Hirsch explained that the idea for his company to expand was because of the need to create a product in the food industry that is sustainable all year round, adding that Pacific Ring West Africa is wiling to pay good price to the farmer.
While noting that development and value addition on local crops in Nigeria is not comparable with advanced methods as obtained in Indonesia where he does business, Hirsch said he came to Nigeria because it is one of the biggest producers of cassava in the world.
He said he got to know the idea of adding value to cassava, one of their main stable crop also, while in Indonesia.
“But we also know that there is a disconnect between farmers, off takers, infrastructure and market pricing demand, because what we see is that big industries are also buying on low level prices.
“Our idea was to create a product in the industry which is sustainable all year round, which means 365 days and we can also afford to pay a good average price for the crop to the farmer, so that the farmers are also enhanced and able to plan ahead,” he said.
Hirsch said with Nigeria having 600 to 700 different varieties of cassava, his company cited its factory in Abuja because of the available special variety of cassava with less starch which is suitable for use in the food industry.
Responding, Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, expressed willingness to partner with Pacific Ring West Africa, to train cassava farmers in the state, stressing that the gesture is not only apt but in line with the policy thrust of his administration.
Engineer Sule said Nasarawa State has both the land and human resources to produce any amount of cassava the company may require.
Speaking from his experience while in the organized private sector, the Governor however advised the company to consider backward integration by establishing their own farms in the state.
He listed Kokona, Wamba and Nasarawa Eggon Local Government Areas as major cassava producing areas, urging the company to consider acquiring land in these areas to set up their farms.
“In the interim, we welcome your idea of training our farmers to produce cassava for your factory and we are willing to support and partner with you,” Engineer Sule said.
As part of the visit, the management of the Pacific Ring West Africa, distributed food packs containing the company’s finished products that is being sold across Europe and within the country.