Nigeria is set to witness a major breakthrough in its economic diversification drive with the planned inauguration of the Integrated Produce City (IPC) on August 29 in Edo State.

Senior government officials, private sector leaders and foreign dignitaries are expected to lead the parade of stakeholders to Benin as the Nigeria’s first ever integrated produce city, a combination industrial park, farm settlement, and commodities exchange.

Chairman and CEO of IPC, Prof. Pat Utomi in an exclusive interview with our correspondent, said that IPC, the $136 million project located 24 kilometre from the Edo State Capital, Benin, would revolutionise and redefine the operations agricultural value chain in the country.

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He said that Nigeria has suffered for so long from the failure to recognise the need to have a diverse economy.

“Anytime we talk about it (economic diversification) we hear this sweeping statement about commitment to restructuring the base oh the Nigerian economy away from a monocultural dependence from oil. That’s a song and nobody does anything about it. But until businesses can really take that seriously we can’t move forward.

According to him, the production and processing cluster would feature facilities designed to drastically reduce waste, increase income for farmers, and create jobs while reducing the price of food in local markets and growing foreign exchange earnings for the economy. He said the facility located in more than 200 hectres with additional tracts of land would include a trading field to which farmers from Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Edo, Delta and Anambra states would use to auction their produce.

“Buyers such as supermarket owners, manufacturers and hotels who will have warehouses in the estate will move acquired produce immediately to their warehouses, just as manufacturers located in the estate. Preservation facilities ranging from sylos, sun-drying equipment and cold storage facilities on the estate will receive whatever is not sold immediately, ensuring little or no waste occurs,” he said.

Explaining the business model further, Prof. Utomi pointed out that the first two model farms to be located within the produce city have committed to an out grower scheme that would provide extension support and price assurance to select cooperatives of farmers in the adjoining states.

One of them, the SnailHouse Integrated and OutGrowers Farms Ltd will not only champion snail farming in Edo State through the outgrower scheme but intends to deepen the value chain for export and local consumption, including processing the snail shells for is calcium content, and the slime, for cosmetics manufacturing, on the estate.

The IPC chairman commended the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, for his vision in facilitating the location of the IPC in Edo State.

He also noted that an agreement for Paras Energy to construct a modular power plant, beginning with 25 megawats to service the Agric city, as captive power producer; and an MOU with a foreign water company to service the city would ensure higher efficiency.

He said a rest area in the estate will serve commuters on the Benin-Sagamu Expressway and a trailer park for the logistics companies located in the estate would make it a beehive of commercial activity generating significant taxes that should significantly affect Edo State’s IGR.

Among the transformative innovations designed for the IPC, he also stated, are agriventure incubators and a learning alley to support human capital requirements for companies on the Estate.

The Learning hub, he went on will be located in Ibusa, in nearby Delta state. The IPC Chief Executive said the IPC concept is a veritable strategy for reversing current economic challenges facing Nigeria.

He said two other IPC locations are planned for Oyo State and Niger State to service the Lagos Ibadan megalopolis and the metropolis of Abuja.

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