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Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Nigeria’s most innovative and leading engineering company, has made a bold diversification of its investment portfolio into the agricultural processing sector of the nation’s economy. Technically reputed for its environment-friendly policy in all of its business endeavours, the engineering pace setter has also committed to implement its highly efficient no-waste operational practice at its soon to be commissioned internationally-benchmarked and top quality-driven Cashew processing plant sited in Epe, Lagos.

Julius Berger made the pledge through itsCashew Project’s Commodity and Marketing Manager, Oyindamola Asaaju,during its participation at the just-concluded pioneer Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Conference, which held at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja, recently.Oyindamola who represented Julius Berger on the Conference discussion panel as well as at the Cashew roundtable stated that, clear national occupational standard and demand-driven international product quality would define and drive the company’s operations and productivity in the cashew processing industry in Nigeria, where only 5% of Nigeria’s cashew production is currently locally processed.

A pioneer initiative between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Delegation der Deutschen Wirtschaft in Nigeria (Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria), the conference attracted both local and international corporate and research organizations in the cashew production and processing value chain. It also attracted high government presence, including the permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and other directors and heads of departments.

A significant part of the conference wasdedicated to filling observed skills gaps within Nigeria’s cashew farming andprocessing sector. During the Cashew Roundtable and panel discussion sessions at the conference, there was a consensus that the global cashew trade is a booming industry, with the United States’ imports alone valued at USD 1.6 million in 2018. Within the same year, amongst the cashewproducing nations globally, Asian countriescontributed approx. 44%, while Africa contributed 56.5% to the global production. Amongst these African producers, Nigeria remains one of the top contributors. In fact,Nigeria is the 6th largest producer of cashew in the world. According to the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC),Nigeria has an untapped potential of $3.4 million USD from exports of cashew kernels. The top five markets with thehighest potential for exports are EU, Japan,Canada, and UAE.

However, while vocational training in cashew nuts and cultivation is a niche sector, as the private sector andinternational stakeholders primarily focus on a value chain approach (production, processing, market links and industry organization), specific vocational training as well as NOS (National Occupational Standards remains in need of development in Nigeria.

The conference brought stakeholders fromboth the private and public sector, as well asfarmers themselves to discuss relevant issues. Amongst other considerations, theConference discussed the status of Nigeria’s food and nutrition security,employment opportunities along the agricultural value chain, access to financefor innovation, agropreneurs, andsmallholder farmers, quality assurance, requirements and Standards, and opportunities and challenges ofinternational trade (including GermanSupply Chain Law, EU-Import Regulations, and opportunities of AfCFTA).

The Cashew Roundtable also canvassed the benefits of bringing togetherstakeholders across the entire cashewvalue chain, matching producers with potential off-takers, promoting investmentsin the cashew sector, identifying skill gaps in the cashew value chain, and introducing innovative training delivery andcompetency based training approaches

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari at a recent dinner in honour of the 2022 Committee of Business and other civil society Leaders, which held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said that a  key area the administration would like to leave a legacy is “bequeathing a strong repositioned agriculture-led, diversified home-grown economy”. According to the President, “The question that should be uppermost always is: How do we leverage our business endowment for the greater good of our country?”

The Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria has been organizing Dual Vocational Training Conferences focusing on agriculture and other topical necessaries since 2019. The ATVET Conference 2022 is a continuation of discussions to address critical questions around food & nutrition security, as well as highlighting Nigeria’s opportunity to position herself globally as a major player.

The Head of Corporation, EU Delegation, Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria, Ms Cecil Tassin-Pelzer gave the welcome address. The first keynote address was given by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Ernest Afolabi Umakhihe, represented by M.T. Usman, Head of Cashew Value Chain Programme in the Ministry. Dr Patrick O. Adebola, Executive Director, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria gave the second keynote address at the conference. Issaka Mohamed Salifou of ComCashew Initiative, Anthony Lewis of Fairfood; and Olorunfemi Oloruntoyin, Country Director, USDA West Africa PRO-Cashew, also shared cashew operations field experiences.

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