By Bassey Bassey
The Akwa Ibom Government has started planting two million coconut seedlings to support its planned coconut plantation and refining company.
The Secretary to the State Government, Mr Etekamba Umoren, disclosed this on Wednesday in Uyo while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Umoren said that the planned coconut refinery was one of the agro-based industries initiated by the administration of Gov. Udom Emmanuel.
He said that the coconut plantation and refinery project would be a major boost to the industrialisation agenda of the state government.
Umoren said that plantation, stretching over 11,000 hectares of land across Ikot Abasi, Mkpat Enin and Eastern Obolo communities, would create more than 500 jobs.
He said that the state government had imported mulching machines to assist in clearing land for the coconut plantation.
He said that the project had already impacted on the communities positively with the engagement of some young persons from the communities as trainees on the machines’ operation.
The secretary to state government said that the coconut refining technology would also be deployed in palm kernel oil refining.
“It is a multi-faceted technology that would refine both coconut oil and palm kernel oil.
“The technology will be the cool press, not hot which is even more expensive than the hot press.
“This is very spectacular as there is no such plant currently in Nigeria,” Umoren said.
He said that many prospective investors showed interest in the project because of its economic viability.
Umoren said that the naira high exchange rate had been the major challenge to the industrialisation efforts of Gov. Emmanuel.
He said that most of the industries conceived by the administration were based on public-private partnerships, but the volatile naira exchange rate had stalled early take-off of the industries.
NAN reports that some of industries proposed by the government and had yet to start include a vehicle assembly plant, low energy display (LED) electric bulbs company and a meter manufacturing company.
Umoren, however, expressed optimism that these companies would soon come on stream as naira exchange rate had started to stabilise.