Ondo State governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, on Wednesday advocated for the exploitation of all the natural resources available in the state, saying a great percentage of natural resources have not been tapped.
Akeredolu, who stated this during the first Ondo State investment forum in Akure, said if all the natural resources in the state are exploited for human and economic development of the state, it will turn around the fortune of the state.
While enumerating the resources craving for attention and proper understanding, Akeredolu said: “Ondo State is an agrarian economy with over 70 per cent of the population with agriculture being the dominant employer of labour.”
“It is no longer news that Ondo state accounts for over 40% of Nigeria’s annual cocoa output, however we process less than 2% of our cocoa output.”
“Ondo State is also a major player in other agricultural produce in tree crops such as: oil palm, rubber, cashew and kolanut; also arable crops such as: cassava, yam, maize, rice, sugarcane; fruit crops such as: pineapple, citrus, mango, pepper and tomato are all cultivated in abundance in Ondo State.”
“Our special focus is on our comparative advantage in agriculture, which is palm oil and cocoa. We want to develop our palm oil to the extent where we have a self-sustaining palm oil city.”
Akeredolu disclosed that the present administration in the state has concluded plans to expand the cocoa revolution project in the state.
He said: “We will not leave out rice production in Ondo State. It will interest you to know that our rice paddies are taken all the way to Lagos State or Kogi State by our farmers to be processed because we don’t have any rice mill here.”
Akeredolu raised farmers’ hope as he said that his government had planned to setup specialised Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZ) for these crops to enable investments in the production of finished products ready for export.
He equally said the state government would soon set up Ondo State Employment Trust Fund to unveil a scheme in partnership with the private sector to empower about 10,000 youths and women in agribusiness to boost employment in the state.
The governor listed the state’s 120km coastline, which he described as home to various fish species like sole snapper, croaker, barracuda, big eye grunter, catfish, as one of the resources yearning for attention.
On industrial development, Akeredolu said Ondo State had been granted two Free Trade Zone (FTZ) licenses which are Olokola (being an oil and gas FTZ in partnership with Ogun State government) and Ondo State Industrial City (as a non-oil and gas FTZ).
He said: “These FTZs have the potential of becoming the gateway to export produce from all over the country. “Agricultural produce from the north, agro-allied and industrial products from ancillary industries from the east can easily be exported to regional and international markets from Ondo.”
He added that beside oil and gas, Ondo State boasts of possessing one of the largest reserves of bitumen and tar sands in the world.
Akeredolu said: “It is also endowed with large deposits of various solid minerals including limestone, coal, granite, kaolin, silica and sand, among others.
“Whilst attention over the years has been on oil and gas; this government is willing and ready to exploit its bitumen reserves in a sustainable way particularly in the area of providing asphalt for road development.”
It is estimated that over 90% of the minerals in Ondo State are unexploited and unutilized. This gap points out the need to encourage Public – Private Partnership in these sectors”