Agriculture

Ethanol extraction from cassava’ll turn fortunes of Benue farmers – Numbeve

Mr. Stephen Numbeve is the Public Relations Manager, Pure Biotech Company Limited; an ethanol production company that is speedily undergoing construction in Makurdi, Benue state. In this interview with The Voice Correspondent, MOSES MBAIORGA, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tartor Enterprises spoke on how the company can create jobs to Benue populace.

W hat is exactly is pure biotech company into?

Pure Biotech Company Limited is into ethanol production. Basically, we use cassava in processing the ethanol. After processing the ethanol, there are several other bio-products that are derived from the cassava at the end. So, pure biotech company limited is centered on ethanol production via cassava.

Why do you have to establish this company in Benue state?

To keep records straight, the company is owned by Chinese investors. They only contacted my own company, Tartor Enterprises for acquisition of land. We discussed further and they told me they needed a land for the production of ethanol through cassava. It was from there that I saw an opportunity to influence something for Benue considering its reach availability of the needed raw materials. My candid advice to them was Benue is the hub so far as cassava is concerned in Nigeria. The decision was to be taken on where the plant will be situated; Nassarawa, Benue or Taraba. These three states were considered, and I told them without fear or favour that Benue is the best place because, apart from having enough raw materials which is cassava, it’s also in the central amongst the aforementioned states.

For instance, if the company is situated in Nassarawa and subsequently run out of raw materials, there will be high cost and great danger to transport raw materials to Nassarawa from Taraba and vice versa. Whereas in Benue; Nasarawa, Taraba and Kogi that are known for cassava farming are sharing boundary. Then, my advice was taken. That’s why we are where we are today. So after series of business interactions with them (Chinese Investors) they now feel at home with me and I have been fronting many things for them.

When will the company take off?

The company is estimated to take off in October, 2021 or at most November this year. Therefore, everything, I mean “everything” is being worked towards that.

 Apart from the visible housing structures at the company, are the machines installed?

The machines among other things are on the way coming through high sea. They will be here anytime soon. Already, places that are meant to install these machines have been created. We are now waiting for the arrival of the machines to be mounted. These Chinese investors are very serious minded people. In fact, everything is speedily going on successfully and according to plan too.

Are there specific varieties of cassava the company can be dealing in?

To the best of my knowledge, the company will deal with all varieties of cassava for now but as time goes on it will give special attention to some varieties. You know, the starch content in cassava tubers differs from one variety to another. Those with higher starch content will be valued more than those with lower starch content. That may sound ambiguous to unprofessional; which one is more starchy than others may be the question but for us, there will be a procedure to test and ascertain the one or those with higher starch level. All these will be unveiled when the testing kits are available, not now. Once that is done, we can advise farmers on the variety (varieties) of cassava to cultivate. It’s just like Gbôngu is different from other yam species. Although, every yam is bought, same will be applicable to cassava here too.

What will be the staff strength of this company?

The company is expected to directly employ not less than 2,500 and of course, there will be an indirect employment too. That balls down to suppliers, distributors and so on. In fact, the employment chain is massive.

How will farmers be allowed to supply their cassava tubers to the company?

Provided they have the required quantity because there will be a specified quantity to be taken to the company. If it’s below that quantity we may not take it. However, farmers can merge their cassava to get the required quantity. But you know that may likely have some issues for farmers trying to get a quantity that is suppliable.

What is the production capacity of this company?

The metric tons the company is expected to produce a day is between 1300 – 1400. It’s massive and there is need to redouble our efforts towards cassava production in order to meet up the demand.

Are you still lobbying for other companies to be established in Benue state through Chinese investors?

For now, I would not want to be in the forefront of disclosing that; you know that even this very one was not in the media but it came up. So I don’t want to put an advert in the media that, maybe, at the end, I would not be able to meet up. However, I am actually working on other things too but I won’t sell them out for now. But as soon as we are done you will know them.

Insecurity is the bigger issue. How would you cope?

The major support will need from government is ‘security’ and government partnership. Other things we need from government cannot be discussed here but between us and them.

Are benefits of this company to Benue farmers?

Those that have already benefited from this factory can testify; because there is a sister factory in Ogun State and it has turned a lot of cassava farmers into millionaires within a blink of an eye. My advice is that farmers should make 80 percent of their farming to be cassava production. That will give them a better result than any other thing because cassava farming as we speak will give you reasonable income and it’s not as difficult to farm as compares to other crops. The production capacity of the company is massive so they should make use of it instead of allowing the company to go to other states in search of raw materials.

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