The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Dangote Industries Limited, parent company of the Dangote Group, at the weekend signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish fully integrated rice production and processing operations nationwide.
The deal, which signing ceremony was presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, would see Dangote Industries investing $1 billion (about N165 billion) in response to the on-going reforms of the President's Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) launched in 2011.
Already, Dangote has acquired farmland totalling 150,000 hectares in Edo, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, and Niger states, for commercial production of rice paddy.
According to a statement by Dangote Group on Sunday, as part of the project, Dangote will also establish two state-of-the-art large-scale rice mills each with a capacity to mill 120,000 Metric Tons of rice paddy, bringing total capacity to 240,000 metric tons. With such installed capacity, the Project becomes the largest single investment ever made in rice production in Africa. The rice plant is estimated to produce 960,000 metric tons of mill rice, representing 46 per cent of rice imported into Nigeria. Even then, there are plans to double capacity within two years.
Speaking at the event, President Jonathan commended Aliko Dangote, chief executive of Dangote Group for building a strong industrial base in Nigeria.
According to him, "it takes a lot of hard work, commitment and discipline to achieve the feat, accomplished by Aliko Dangote. Today is a great day for Nigeria and this investment is worth the risk. The country is capable of producing rice that can feed the whole of West African sub-region"
The President restated commitment to end the high spate of smuggling through the nation's porous borders within the next 12 months, assuring that the days of smugglers are numbered. Government, he stressed, is determined to install electronic surveillance equipment that will depend less on human manipulations and interventions, assuring Dangote that his investment will be protected.
Reacting, Dangote commended government for evolving a robust and consistent policy that has made Nigeria an irresistible place to invest. He urged other Nigerian entrepreneurs to join the moving train now, rather than sit back and complain of not having a level-playing field and later on wave the flag of monopoly for successful entrepreneurs.