NIGERIA – After nearly two years of hinting its big diversification move into agro-processing, Julius Berger Plc, a leading civil engineering and construction company in Nigeria, has unveiled that its first investment in the sector will be cashew processing.
The company disclosed this in a regulatory filing with the Nigerian Stock Exchange, highlighting that its cashew processing plant that is currently under construction, will be ready for commissioning in the second quarter of 2022.
“Julius Berger is pleased to announce to the market, with respect to its first Agro-processing activity, cashew processing which shall form the cornerstone of Julius Berger’s activities in the sector, that the pioneer cashew processing plant located in Epe, Lagos State would be commissioned in the second quarter of the financial year 2022,” stated the company.
The Board of the industrial company approved the move in September 2020, in pursuit for more operational rigor, given the widespread economic vulnerabilities in the country and the resultant reforms by the government.
“Our diversification direction would support the continued success of the Julius Berger Group in the future and align with the strategic objectives of the Government to stimulate value creation in Nigeria,” highlighted the organization.
Julius Berger’s agro-processing activities are set to benefit from its leading technical expertise and innovation with a proven record of reliably delivering solutions to the highest standards.
Nigeria is one of the largest producers of cashew in the region and the crop is ranked 2nd as non-oil export foreign exchange earner for the country.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s agricultural exports surged to the highest level ever on record in Q2 2021, generating N165.27 billion (US$396.8 million).
Out of this, cashew nuts contributed N42.94 billion (US$101.2 million). It was the second most exported agro food item, second only to cocoa beans.
Julius Berger’s investment in the sector is timely as Nigeria targets to increase production of cashew nuts to 350,000 metric tonnes by 2023, and processing capacity from 15 per cent in 2020 to 35 per cent by 2023.
The manufacturing giant will be operating alongside players such as Farmforte, an innovation-driven and impact-oriented Agro firm, who recently opened a cashew factory in Edo State.
The factory which was inaugurated by Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki has an annual processing capacity of 5,400 metric tons of cashew and is estimated to support over 2000 smallholder farmers.
Meanwhile, Valency Agro Nigeria has clinched a three-year US$3.5 million loan from Oikocredit, to support development of Nigeria’s cashew nut production and processing sector.