Teragro, a subsidiary of Transcorp, commissions a N1 billion fruit juice concentrate manufacturing plant in Makurdi, Benue State, the first of its kind in the country
Hope of industrialising the country was given a boost with the commissioning of a 30,000-tonne per annum fruit juice concentrate manufacturing plant in Makurdi, Benue State. The plant, located on one hectare of land in Makurdi Industrial Estate, will produce orange, mango and pineapple fruit juice concentrates. It was built by Teragro, a subsidiary of Transcorp, at a cost of N1 billion.
Tony Elumelu, chairman, Transcorp, revealed that Nigeria spends close to a $1 billion annually on importation of juice concentrate, a figure he fears would increase since more than half of the country’s population is under 30 years old, a class he identified as taking more of juice. Fruit juice consumption in the country grows by approximately 10 per cent every year since 2002. According to a United States Department of Agriculture report, an upwardly mobile population, an expanding middle class, and increasing health awareness are factors driving the fruit juice market in Nigeria. Consequently, Nigeria has become a major market for juice and a major importer of juice concentrates as none was previously produced in the country. The need to import all concentrates has resulted in increasing the cost of production for manufacturers and reduced value being created in Nigeria. Yet while juice concentrate is being imported into the country, a significant percentage of locally produced fruit rots away.
Therefore, with the commencement of juice concentrate production in the Teragro plant, huge foreign exchange is expected to be saved for the country. In addition to this, both direct and indirect employment would be created. Elumelu was emphatic that oranges, mangoes and fruits that are generally being wasted in the state would now be a thing of the past. He assured that local farmers would be further encouraged to produce more.
In addition to this, both direct and indirect employment would be created, with the local community benefitting more in this regard. Stakeholders reason that the fruit juice concentrate produced at this plant would provide a more cost-effective alternative for local manufacturers, and should also translate to more affordable fruit juice prices for consumers. Further, by sourcing directly from Benue’s small and medium fruit growers, the plant will provide reliable income streams for rural farmers and contribute meaningfully to rural economic transformation and job creation. Additionally, by processing domestically grown fruits, thousands of Nigerian fruit producers will enjoy long-term increases in their standards of living, making a contribution to rural economic transformation and job creation. “They (farmers) now have confidence that Teragro, a subsidiary of Transcorp, is there to pick up whatever they want to produce. Besides, this plant will encourage our agric technicians and scientist to even research more about different varieties of fruits apart from our oranges and mangoes,” Elumelu said.
Gabriel Suswam, governor of Benue State, expressed happiness that the state is committed to public private partnerships such as the one that exists between Transcorp and Benue State government. He is of the opinion that Transcorp, through the Teragro Juice Concentrate plant, will put an end to the over 60 per cent yearly fruit wastage in the state, and ensure that the state put to better use some of the vast resources at its disposal. “My visits to the Teragro plant have been impressive. I have visited the plant and seen truckloads of oranges and mangoes and upon my return in two hours, the fruits have been processed. Over 60 per cent of the fruits in Benue waste every year,” he observed.
For President Goodluck Jonathan, the Teragro plant is in line with his administration’s policies and programmes to create the enabling environment for the private sector to blossom in Nigeria, which he noted is the key driving force of government’s transformation agenda. According to him, all the states of the federation have products they can sell, admonishing governments of the various states to look at areas where they have comparative advantage and work with organisations like Transcorp in those areas. If this is done, the President is convinced that all states of the federation will have something, not just for local consumption, but something to export.
Jide Adedeji, chief executive officer, Teragro, expressed satisfaction with the effort of his company so far. “We are very happy that we are making juice concentrate in Nigeria and from Nigerian fruits. The plant is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that is of world standard,” he said.
By next year, the plant hopes to begin exporting juice concentrates to the neighbouring countries and also increase its production capacity by about five times its present production capacity.