Blessed with fertile land, a favourable climate, and an abundance of water bodies, Edo State in southern Nigeria holds tremendous potential for investment in agriculture. As one of the top oil-producing states, the inception of petroleum exploration led to neglect of the agriculture sector. However, in recent years, the state government has renewed its focus and introduced incentives and policies to accelerate growth. These interventions have already started bearing fruit, making agriculture in Edo an attractive destination for agribusinesses.
Geographic and Demographic Advantage
Spread across 17,802 square kilometres, Edo State is located in the rainforest belt, with southern plains endowed with rivers, forests, and fertile soil. With an average temperature of 25 ̊C to 29 ̊C and annual rainfall above 2000 mm, the climate allows the cultivation of diverse crops and supports two farming seasons. The state has a population of over 4 million, with Benin City being the capital. A good network of roads and proximity to Lagos ports reduce transportation costs for farm produce. The availability of land, labour, raw materials, and supporting infrastructure are key enablers for profitable large-scale farming.
Abundant Natural Resources
Edo is richly endowed with land, water, and other natural resources essential for a thriving agriculture sector. The state has over 1.1 million hectares of fertile arable land suitable for the cultivation of food crops as well as cash crops. Palm oil, rubber, cocoa, cashews, and fruits are abundantly grown. The state has one of the largest palm oil plantations in Nigeria. Over 20% of Nigeria’s rubber output also comes from Edo. The famous Ogba Zoo and Nature Park in Benin City hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna. The state is interlinked with rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams, which support fishing, provide water for irrigation, and prevent droughts. The recent discovery of crude oil reserves has added to an already resource-rich state.
Priority Sector with Government Backing
Identifying agriculture’s potential for economic growth and employment generation, the Edo State Government has accorded high priority to the development of the sector. The Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has introduced several incentives and established institutes and agencies to accelerate the pace of agriculture development in the state. The government aims to leverage public-private partnerships to massively scale up cultivation, establish commodity processing zones, attract investment, and adopt measures to boost exports.
The Edo State Agricultural Development Programme, established to raise productivity, provides subsidised inputs to farmers. The Edo Food and Agriculture Cluster project is working to increase the production and processing of rice and cassava. The Edo State Investment Promotion Office, as a one-stop facilitation portal, assists investors in setting up their projects. The Adult Literacy Agency and other skill development institutes are enhancing the capacity of farmers.
Incentives and support
To catalyse private investment in agriculture, the Edo State government is providing various incentives, like land banks for allocation, tax holidays, and pioneer status for agro-processing firms. Investors can also leverage the infrastructure support provided in terms of road connectivity, irrigation facilities, and storage infrastructure, as well as subsidised finance and credit guarantees. Business enablers like constant power supply and facilitation services help de-risk investments in farming and allied activities.
Thrust Areas with Immense Potential
Oil Palm Cultivation
Oil palm cultivation has witnessed substantial growth in Edo State owing to rising domestic demand and export opportunities. The tropical climate allows harvesting year-round. Investors can lease available community land for large-scale plantations with buyback arrangements for the produce. With an imminent ban on crude palm oil imports, capacity enhancements in palm oil processing offer lucrative returns.
Cashew farming is highly profitable in Edo due to low labour costs and the premium quality of cashew apples and nuts harvested. High-yielding hybrid cashew species have demonstrated better productivity than traditional crops. Investors can collaborate with outgrower farmers to secure supplies of raw cashews and set up processing units to tap export demand.
Edo is promoting self-sufficiency in rice production via privately funded commercial farming with modern machinery and irrigation infrastructure. Investors can obtain land on long leases for contract farming. The state offers subsidies for the establishment of milling, parboiling, and packaging units to add value while serving local consumers.
Rubber is a leading commercial crop, engaging thousands of smallholders. Investors can establish their own plantations equipped with the latest tapping tools and equipment. Joint ventures can also be set up with local farmers. Processing units can further enhance viability through value addition, meeting demand from the large domestic tyre and automotive industries.
Aquaculture and seafood
Edo State offers ideal conditions for fish farming with many reservoirs, ponds, and natural water bodies. High-value species like catfish, tilapia, and prawns can be raised using formulated feed and modern breeding techniques for better productivity and size control. Seafood exports can also be profitably ventured into.
Enablers and Growth Drivers
Special Agro-Processing Zones
The Edo State Government is establishing dedicated food processing industrial parks spread across at least 5,000 hectares. Investor-ready land banks will be equipped with plug-and-play infrastructure like roads, power, water supply, logistics, etc. Incentives are also offered for processing activities undertaken in these zones and exported.
Air Cargo Facility
A cargo terminal is being developed at Benin Airport to substantially reduce logistics costs and time for the export of perishable agro-commodities. Customs and clearing processes will also be facilitated to boost overseas shipments.
Mechanisation is being promoted via subsidised leasing of tractors, power tillers, transplanters, and harvesters to farmers, allowing quick expansion of cultivation areas and reducing labour costs. Drones are being deployed for crop monitoring and spraying pesticides and growth enhancers.
Sustainable practices like optimum water usage through drip irrigation, integrated pest management techniques, and the use of heat- and drought-resistant seed varieties are being encouraged to de-risk crop failures due to the changing climate. Warehousing and cold storage investments are also incentivized by the state.
Edo State offers the ideal environment for businesses to invest, operate, and thrive, powered by receptive policies, administrative support, and a wide range of incentives. It’s time for agribusinesses to reap gold by tapping the state’s agricultural potential.