Africa’s first cassava-based sorbitol factory, constructed by Psaltry International Limited (PIL) in partnership with First City Monument Bank (FCMB) and Unilever Nigeria, has been commissioned in Iseyin, Oyo State by the Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, .
At the commissioning, Makinde said: “This is another value addition to cassava, which Oyo State is known to produce in large quantity. We are glad that the strategies adopted to boost agribusiness in the state are yielding the desired results. We believe there cannot be urban transformation without rural development. Our government is in full support of Psaltry International Company Limited”.
Describing the socio-economic impact of the sorbitol factory, PIL Founder/CEO, Mrs Oluyemisi Iranloye said: “This factory, which is first of its kind in Africa, is projected to create 25,000 direct and indirect jobs while empowering 10,000 rural farmers and families living within an 80 kilometre radius covering more than 20 host communities around Oke-Ogun in Iseyin. The factory, which will produce 24 tons of cassava-based sorbitol daily, was financed by FCMB through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme and has Unilever as the largest off-taker as part of its localisation of raw materials for production. Also called sugar alcohol, sorbitol is used to preserve moisture, add sweetness, provide texture to products, and potentially support digestive and oral health”.
She added that landing the factory is a journey of courage, resilience, and boldness to excel in the world’s cassava value chain beyond the norm. The aim, according to Iranloye, is to reduce the challenges facing manufacturers who import sorbitol into Nigeria, a product that is 90 percent major ingredient in toothpaste and pharmaceutical syrup production. In addition to employment opportunities for youths and farmers, the factory will directly impact a minimum of 100,000 people around the host community. It will also save Nigeria about US$10 million per annum in foreign exchange.
On his part, the Managing Director, Unilever West Africa, Carl Cruz, said: “Unilever is pleased to be part of this initiative in line with its localisation agenda to source raw materials locally in Nigeria. With our sustained investment on localisation, we have enhanced the capacity of partners to increase their production output in sorbitol and cassava starch. This has reduced our dependence on importation of raw materials for our local production and enabled us to generate employment for factory workers, agronomists, back-office support, harvesters, pruners, and suppliers”.
He further said that the support for PIL is part of Unilever Nigeria’s resolve to empower women and people with disabilities owned or led businesses as part of its social procurement initiative. “Through this initiative, we want to break the biases against women and people with disabilities in business. These biases are stopping them from maximising their full potential. It is part of our deliberate steps to ensure our supply chain is more diverse and inclusive”, Cruz Said.
Commenting on the development, the Managing Director of FCMB, Mrs Yemisi Edun restated the commitment of the bank to championing and supporting initiatives that would create wealth and fast-track national development across all sectors of the economy, especially in agribusiness.
According to her, “we are proud to finance the sorbitol factory of Psaltry Limited and excited that the project has come on stream. This is yet another example of our commitment to promote the industrial development of Nigeria as well as create opportunities for indigenous companies to be globally competitive and take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area. In addition, this will help create employment, particularly for the youth and women in Iseyin town and its environs, improve income levels, the standard of living, and reduce rural-urban migration”.
PIL was founded in 2005 for the marketing of cassava produce, the elevation of farming business in rural areas and the production of food-grade starch and high-quality cassava flour from Cassava. The company established its 20 tons per day starch factory in 2012 and an additional production line of 30 tons per day capacity in 2015 to meet more customer demands and satisfaction.