Industry Leader Offers Advice to Nigeria's Farmers

NIGERIA - The president of one of the country's successful companies has urged farmers to improve their skills and to improve production efficiency, while calling on banks to make more money available for farmers to invest in their poultry enterprises.
calendar icon 11 December 2009
clock icon 6 minute read

Poultry farmers have been urged to make the acquisition of knowledge a priority as the business is knowledge and technology driven, reports Compass News of Nigeria.

Speaking at a media conference in commemoration of the 30th year of his company, the president of Animal Care Services Konsult Limited, Dr Olatunde Agbato, said that there is a need for poultry farmers to do things properly.

He said: "There is no way we can keep doing things the same way and get different results. But it is a pity that most of our farmers are not willing to pay for knowledge and so we still have a long way to go.

"Farmers need to know that they are in a business that is technology-driven and must be ready to acquire knowledge to drive their business. A good number believe that as long as they are able to meet the cost of their feeds, they are in business. They need to get detailed information on the business. Many look at cost increase before taking decisions to do new things, whereas it is the ultimate benefit that the knowledge will do for them that they should consider.

"If a new technology is adopted, a space of one year should be given to assess whether it has worked or not but our people want an overnight magic and they conclude that the technology did not work. We must be able to update knowledge in our industry. We should attend training workshops and be ready to pay for it."

Dt Agbato noted that the training school started by his firm was to help farmers but the level of patronage was poor because people believed that they do not need it.

Moreover, he enjoined farmers to learn to re-invest profits into their business so as to expand it.

He said: "Many Nigerian farmers seek to expand operations rather than productivity. Emphasis is not to continue to expand operations, but how to get more from what you already have. For example, productivity per hectare of maize is two to three tonnes in Nigeria. In some other countries, people produce up to 15 tonnes. Rather than increasing their hectarage, they increase productivity. This also goes for egg production. Most Nigerian poultry farmers obtain about 270 eggs per hen per year while farmers in other nations have been obtaining between 320 and 365. The secret is increased productivity. Low productivity is the bane of agriculture in Nigeria. We need to train and deploy modern approach and techniques."

He noted that underlining principle behind the success of the Indian poultry farmers was that they learn to re-invest in their businesses.

Dt Agbato continued: "The profit that Nigerian poultry farmers make in egg sales is far more than what other farmers around the world are making. But the irony of the matter is that other farmers around the world have more money than Nigerian farmers because they have exploited the advantage of technology to improve their productivity. They are producing more volumes of eggs per year. While Nigerian farmers are margin-driven, other farmers around the world are volume-driven and this is why they have more money than their counterparts in Nigeria despite the fact that Nigerian farmers sell eggs at a higher price than theirs."

Compass News reports that Dr Agbato declared that it was high time for Nigerian farmers to embrace technology so as to improve their productivity and be able to produce in volumes, thus leading to reduction of prices of their commodities.

He noted that the potential for egg consumption was enormous in the country as most people eat less that 40 eggs in a year.

"And this is because the economy is bad; but if the farmers can produce at affordable prices, the consumption rate will rise," he said.

However, the Animal Care boss called on the government to rise to its duty by creating enabling environment to help the farmers reduce their production cost. He said that India was able to rise to become the second biggest egg producer in the world because the Indian government came to their aid.

Dt Agbato explained: "It is the government's duty to provide infrastructures and credit for farmers. But we are in a country where the farmer generates his own power, source for water supply and for funds. If government rises up to its responsibilities, the farmers can face their core businesses. Government needs to provide access to credit to farmers and at single digit interest rate.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We have an example in India as to how to help in funding farmers. In 1982, India had the same problem we are having. Most banks did not want to expose themselves to agriculture because of the vagaries. The government of India and the Reserve Bank (Central Bank) set up a wholesale development bank, National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development, (NABARD) to refinance funds given to commercial banks.

"So through NABAD, the government supported the farmers by giving them loan for seven years with two years moratorium. By this, there was no pressure on them to pay up. One of the banks' problems was that they had short-term funds and could not fund long term projects. This is one challenge that the Nigerian Government must take off the farmers. Loans given within one year will not help farmers. It is a disincentive and is not realistic.

"This issue of refinancing is what I have been canvassing for sometime now. This is what we can do to revolutionise our agricultural sector. If India did it, we can do it; but the political will to do it is about the thing we are lacking. For instance, the recent case of 200-billion-naira loan given to only two banks should have been given to all banks for easy access to farmers and as a matter of fact, the fund is yet to be disbursed," concluded Dr Agbato.

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