Africa’s first cassava-based sorbitol factory, built by Psaltry International Limited (PIL) in partnership with First City Monument Bank (FCMB) and Unilever Nigeria, has been inaugurated in a grand ceremony by the Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency, Seyi Makinde, in Iseyin, Oyo State.

Speaking at the plant’s commissioning, Governor Makinde said, “This is another value addition to Cassava that Oyo State is known to produce in large quantities. We are pleased that the strategies adopted to boost agribusiness in the state are producing the desired results.” We believe that urban transformation is not possible without rural development. Our government fully supports Psaltry International Company Limited.”

Speaking about the economic impact of the sorbitol plant, the founder/CEO, Psaltry International, Ms. Oluyemisi Iranloye, said: “This plant, the first of its kind in Africa, is expected to create 25,000 direct and indirect jobs while simultaneously serving 10,000 farmers and families living within a 80 km radius and cover more than 20 host communities around Oke-Ogun in Iseyin, Oyo State.The plant, which will produce 24 tons of cassava-based sorbitol daily, was funded by FCMB through the Central Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme Bank of Nigeria and has Unilever as the largest buyer as part of the localization of raw materials for manufacturing.Also called sugar alcohol, sorbitol is used to retain moisture, add sweetness, give texture to products and possibly aid digestion and oral health to support.

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She added that landing the factory is a journey of courage, resilience and audacity to excel in the world’s cassava value chain beyond the norm. The aim is to reduce the challenges faced by manufacturers who import sorbitol into Nigeria, a product that is 90 percent a major ingredient in the production of toothpaste and pharmaceutical syrup. In addition to employment opportunities for young people and farmers, the factory will have a direct impact on at least 100,000 people in the host community. It will also save Nigeria about $10 million a year in forex.

Commenting on the development, FCMB’s managing director, Ms. Yemisi Edun, reiterated the bank’s commitment to food security and import substitution in Nigeria by increasing its lending to the agricultural sector from 53.6 billion in the half-year 2021 to 87, 9 billion by the middle of 2022, a growth of 16.5 percent.

According to her, “We are proud to have funded the first cassava-based Sorbitol plant in Africa and are delighted to have it commissioned. It is another example of our commitment to developing domestic industries and reducing the dependence on foreign imports, which helped create jobs and improve income levels, especially for youth and women around Iseyin in Oyo state, reducing rural-to-urban migration.”

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For his part, Unilever West Africa Managing Director Carl Cruz said: “Unilever is delighted to be part of this initiative in line with its localization agenda to source raw materials locally in Nigeria. With our continued investment in localization, we have increased the capacity of partners to increase their production output in sorbitol and cassava starch. As a result, we have become less dependent on the import of raw materials for our local production and we have created employment for factory workers, agronomists, back office support, harvesters, pruners and suppliers.”

He went on to say that the support for Psaltry International is part of Unilever Nigeria’s determination to empower women and people with disabilities who are owned or run by businesses as part of its social procurement initiative.

“With this initiative, we want to break the prejudice against women and people with disabilities in business. These prejudices prevent them from reaching their full potential. It’s part of our conscious steps to ensure our supply chain is more diverse and inclusive,” said Cruz.

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