Feature- #MakeNigeriaBetter: Ondo State

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As we step up our review of what each of Nigeria’s 36 states can bring to the table, today we examine Ondo State, the territory with the largest tropical rainforest area in the country

Ayo Akinfe

[1] Ondo State has the largest tropical rainforest area in Nigeria, so it is no surprise that it is the country’s largest cocoa producer. Known as “the food of the gods, cocoa needs the canopy of the tropical rainforest to grow. Ondo State should thus have an economy centred around cocoa growing, processing and chocolate production. I am sure most Nigerians do not know that Ondo is also Nigeria’s fifth largest crude oil producer after Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states

[2] Can someone please explain why the Ondo State government has not built the world’s largest cocoa plantation in Owena. Nigeria is currently the world’s sixth largest cocoa producer with an output of about 245,000 tonnes and Ondo State is the largest producer in Nigeria. This Owena plantation should have an output of about 10,000 tonnes with the potential to rise to 50,000 tonnes

[3] Then, the state government should build Africa’s largest cocoa-grinding plant in Ondo City. Emulating the vision of Alhassan Dantata, they should gather cocos beans from farmers over a 200-mile radius stretching to Ado Ekiti, Akure, Owo, Idanre, Ilesha and as far south as Ilaro. Beans will be ground into cocoa butter and powder at this plant employing as many as 1,000 staff

[4] Our Ondo State governor should then approach chocolate companies like Nestle, Mars, Cadburys, Barry Callebaut and Lindt & Sprüngli, asking them to build a chocolate processing plant at Ore, the gateway between eastern and western Nigeria. This will make Ondo State the agro-processing capital of Nigeria. It will be a game changer that alters the state of the Nigerian economy forever

[5] To process chocolate, you need other things like sugar, milk, peanuts, cashews, coconuts, shea nuts etc. Ondo State government should thus initiate plans to grow coconuts in its coastal areas in places like Aiyetoro, Mahin, Igbotu and Igbobini in Ilaje Local Government Area. Joint ventures should then be entered into with other states to produce other ingredients. For instance – Kwara (Sugarcane), Kano (groundnuts), Ogun (Cashews), Benue (Shea nuts). These states should then all be linked with a railway cargo network so goods can be transferred from one point to another with ease

[6] Ondo State then needs to construct a cargo export terminal along the coast at Aiyetoro to export finished products. What I have in mind is the building of a packaging plant there so that Ondo State can actually export retail-ready finished products to anywhere in the world. To augment this, the Ondo State government should then ask investors if they are interested in building a cargo terminal at Akure Airport so their goods can be flown out if need be. Companies like Nestle, Mars, Cadburys, Barry Callebaut and Lindt & Sprüngli build such terminals all over the world to ship their products

[7] For me, however, Ore remains the joker in the pack. It is the gateway between eastern and western Nigerian and simply has to become one of the most industrialised cities in Nigeria. Ore must become an industrial hub similar to Nnewi and Aba. It should be developed into a major travel stopover joint, too with hotels, fairground rides, restaurants, etc

[8] More importantly, Ore should have a battery warehouse built to halve the trip between Lagos and the southeast geo-political zone. That was how Cape Town in South Africa was built. It served as a halfway stop over point between Europe and Asia, halving the trips merchants needed to make

[9] Our Ondo State government should then expand the production of cash crops like palm oil, kolanuts, rubber, timber, cassava and maize. Other parts of the world like Bahia in Brazil, Sumatra in Indonesia, Borneo in Malaysia, Entre Rios in Argentina, India’s Uttar Pradesh or Punjab in Pakistan generate as much as $50bn in some instances in foreign exchange earnings and that must be our goal in Ondo State. Malaysia for instance makes $10bn from palm oil exports alone

[10] How many Nigerians know that Ondo State is sitting on $10bn worth of annual bitumen exports. Other juicy assets it has include the tourist attraction Idanre Hills and the Oluwa Glass Company. Ondo State could easily be self-sufficient without any federal allocation. Over the next five years, it should have export revenue projections that look like this: cocoa – $10bn; bitumen – $10bn; tourism – $10bn, palm oil – $5bn, timber – $5bn; transport – $5bn; kolanuts – $5bn; cassava – $5bn, glass – $5bn

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