Is Agribusiness a thing in Nigeria? Exclusive chat with Niyi Ogungbade.

Niyi Ogungbade a former banker who resigned to start-up his Agribusiness believes it was in him from birth to pursue a career in Agriculture.
Agribusiness in Nigeria
“I was born into a family where agriculture was a culture. I however went into banking after my first degree, specializing in operations. I resigned as branch manager operations to focus on agribusiness.

I went into banking with the aim of getting to the agric desk, I mean my whole being breathes agribusiness. Now am out more fortified taking on not only production but various ventures along agribusiness value chain.”

In the 1960s, Agriculture was a major strength of Nigeria. The nation was so promising in the comity of nations mainly because Nigeria was the darling major producer of food and other agro based raw materials in Africa. Nigeria was known for palm oil, groundnuts, cocoa, etc and the economy was booming and stable. However, oil came and everything changed!

“Unfortunately, whatever changed wasn’t in Nigeria’s capacity to be a nation earning huge foreign exchange from agric. It was greed and quest for quick gain rather than building on the nation’s area of comparative advantage. Oil is great for Nigeria, but we shouldn’t have left agriculture.”

However, like earlier said , “the capacity is not gone, we still have our fertile land, in enormous expanse, we still have our water body network, we still have huge manpower and tropical climate. The government of the day is trying to veer back into the lost focus, by putting so much into agriculture, seeing that oil prices were so low when the team assumed power, imagine, the next thing they thought of was agriculture because everyone knows that sector actually is the future.”

At the moment, the government is making all effort to make the sector Niyi Ogungbade- Agribusiness in Nigeriawork, so anyone interested can just delve in now, soon the ship will sail and be on full throttle, making entrance into the business very stiff. Now it is easier to import agric machines, it is easier to get government loan for agric, and in single digit interest rate, cargo airports, vigorous activities from NEXIM bank, export promotion, increase research from federal parastatals extended to farmers. Need I just say the government has stimulated the sector, even state and local governments. Now the young know they people can work on just one acre of land and make good living. Many young people are now looking into this sector, myself as an example. Although there is still huge knowledge gap, Nigeria is fast catching up with the human capital needed.

How long have you been in the Agribusiness sector? I entered commercial agriculture production since 2009 when I started cultivating a twenty five acres farm land. I however commenced consultancy in agribusiness start up, operations and farm audit in December 2017.

Do you have any funding from government? I don’t have funding from government even though there are various funding programmes from the government – CBN anchor borrowers’ scheme, Bank of industry, Bank of agric, and more, also various plans by some commercial banks. I funded my activities from my salary and plough backs.

Why did you go into this sector?

The fact is that there is huge potential in this sector, food production and raw materials. Nigeria is yet to be able to feed herself and her industries also need to source for cheaper raw materials locally, this deficit is the enormous economic potential for farmers or any entrepreneur that desires to come into agribusiness, and a way to meet the need Nigeria is struggling to meet. I have passion for this and also I am trained, both formally (first degree in animal science and second in agribusiness) and informally. I seek to create opportunities for anyone interested in food production. We will reduce poverty drastically, chiefly among rural community dwellers, if we invest in agriculture. These I seek to do and more

Tell me the exact type of agric business you’re into?

I am into production and consultancy.

I have a crop farm where various items are grown, ranging from perennial crops like oil palm to vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage…and also tuber crops like cassava. I produce fish too, fresh and processed.

My consultancy outfit focuses on agribusiness project/start-up, agribusiness operations and farm audit . the engine room of any business is the operations, my team and I help ventures to gain advantage by giving advisories and testing their processes to ensure commensurate result and to mitigate potential risks. We cover animal husbandry, crops, food production, packaging, storage, value adding, supplies and any other agro allied venture.

Where do you see your business in next 5 years?

We will, God willing, to expand existing plantations to one hundreds of hectares of cashew, cocoa and oil palm and exporting. We also will be leading agribusiness operations solution provider to corporate organizations and individuals.

Do you think Agribusiness can solve Nigeria’s unemployment issues?

Very well, agribusiness value chain has the capacity to reduce Nigeria’s unemployment figure drastically. If we can just focus on feeding the nation and west Africa alone, we will empower more than half of our roaming youths and population. Agribusiness encompasses production on farm i.e cultivating crops or rearing animals, storage, value adding; that is, packaging, dressing etc, transportation, grading, post-production, milling, equipment leasing, farmland rentals, agro-engineering … the list is endless. Even as simple as garri processing, fufu, bread. Considering just a single value chain for maize. From farm land preparation ( weeding, spraying, stomping, ploughing, planting) to harvesting, to post production activities (winnowing, bagging, grading, storage) to animal feed production, or human consumption as pap, or further production to flakes, or preparation as seed for farmers to plant, talk about the transportation of this commodity to and fro too and people are needed at every juncture of these chain. The employment potential of agribusiness is just so huge.

Do you encourage youths to embrace this sector? If so how do they come in?

I encourage youths to come into this sector. It is a sector that requires the energy of young people, the optimism, their creative abilities. The reason Nigeria is still lagging behind in cocoa production, according to FAO, is because unlike countries like ivory coast, 90% of Nigeria’s cocoa farm is in the hands of men above the age of 65, imagine that! These people are old and not ambitious, they are not seeing reason to build empires again, they are not motivated by figures again, and even if they are, where is the strength? The quality of the activities of young people in a community determines the success of such, fortunately Nigeria have more young people than old so we should be very productive. More so, there is great fortune in agribusiness, imagine that with just one acre of cucumber production, on which only 120,000 will be spent, a young man can make a profit of 300,000 naira in 6-8 weeks and even more during off season. If anybody needs money then come to farm, but with good guidance of course. A twenty five year old man who started with one acre can grow to hundreds of hectare within 20 years and build a good fortune for his family.

What challenges have you faced and how have you been tackling them?

My major challenge has been personnel. Getting people who are employable. The truth is that many young Nigerians are not employable, the two problems we have are quest for quick gain and capacity. Ones with capacity are looking out to play fast one on the business while the good hearted ones are not grounded in knowledge. I therefore take time to train my people and also set working mitigants against possible fraudulent acts.

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