The Federal Government has commenced the setting up of Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) as a major strategy in the economic diversification programme of the current administration and repositioning for sustainable economic growth and development. This was revealed today by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono as he declared open, the Inception Workshop in Abuja, marking the take-off of the project in the 6 (six) geopolitical zones of the country.

Nanono stated that the SAPZs aims at helping to develop competitive processing capacity through the promotion of private sector investment, enabled by investment in public goods, policy interventions and the provision of desirable support services and skills development.

The Minister noted that the SAPZs will boost value addition to agriculture, improve competitiveness and in effect, reduce food imports, assure food sufficiency, create jobs for teeming Nigerian youths and in turn grow the nation’s economy by generating revenue.

Nanono said that the plan is to develop the SAPZs within a period of three (3) years across the country in areas where core economic value can be unleashed for the benefit of the rural population. The Minister noted that agricultural mechanization will be the main vehicle for strategically implementing the SAPZ program on an intense scale.

The SAPZs which are to be built around Brownfields – areas with developed and existing infrastructure such as rails, roads, power and irrigation systems, is being developed with the support and collaboration of the African Development Bank (AFDB) and financiers like International Finance Corporation (IFC) and African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK).

The core implementing Agencies including the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the Bank of Industry, and Bank of Agriculture among others broke into 4 cluster groups to appraise critical commodities in the value chain and proffer the way forward.

 To ensure the immediate take-off of the project, the Minister will on a later date inaugurate a SAPZ technical team that will drive the process.

The Ministers of Federal Capital Territory, Water Resources, Finance, Budget & National Planning and Industry, Trade & Investment and other relevant stakeholders were duly represented at the occasion.