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Utomi sets up $135m commodities exchange

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A startup, led by renowned political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, is developing a new agricultural commodities exchange in Edo State, to take advantage of Federal Government’s efforts to diversify the economy with a greater focus on agriculture.

According to Bloomberg, the exchange, Integrated Produce City Limited, will be located near the southern city of Benin, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, a site accessible to nearby growers of cocoa, palm oil, rubber and cassava.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Utomi, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the company, said, “The concept of a wholesale-produce market is to enable the farmer to fully dispose of his produce, instead of today where he loses 80 percent of his output” that rots before it can reach the market.

Nigeria is boosting investment in agriculture to increase exports and cut food imports that cost it $3.2 billion in 2015, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The economy of Africa’s biggest oil producer has been hit hard by lower output and prices of crude, which accounts for more than 90 percent of foreign income and two thirds of government revenue.

Integrated Produce City will have storage facilities, including refrigerated warehouses, and host processing plants on its 100-hectare (247-acre) site in Edo state’s Ugbokun village when it starts operating by the end of 2018, Utomi said. “It will be an export hub for produce,” where exporters will have access to large quantities stored in one place rather than sending agents to individual farmers to collect small amounts, he said.

The company has put up 20 per cent of the required $135 million and is in talks with lenders and investors from South Africa, China and Australia for additional capital, Utomi said, declining to name them. Integrated Produce City signed an agreement with KPMG LLP’s Nigerian unit on Monday to help it raise more capital, Vitus Akudinobi, a spokesman for the new exchange, said.

Cocoa, palm produce, cashew nuts and rubber are among the products to be traded on the exchange. Others are fresh fruit and vegetables, grains and tubers such as cassava and yams. Local manufacturing companies will be able to buy agricultural goods at the exchange, he said.

“Among the factories we’re trying to attract are chocolate makers. The entire cocoa value chain will be represented,” Utomi said, adding that the exchange aims to provide services to six states in southern Nigeria.

This report first appeared in Bloomberg.

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