The Nigerian agriculture is rapidly transforming and over the years, effective policy reforms have led to over $58 billion from international agribusiness community. At the AGRA Innovate Nigeria exhibition that provided a perfect platform to meet buyers, establish local partnership and network with key policymakers and experts. Mr. Jamie Rixton, General Manager, Pan-African Equipment Nigeria- Agricultural Division and key panelist at the event spoke to The Guardian on the need to modernise agriculture through mechanisation and way forward.
Why the focus on Nigeria
Nigeria’s agricultural sector has a massive potential if well harnessed, especially looking at what has happened in the last 30 years. The number of tractors imported into Nigeria in the 1990s was reasonably average. Since 1993, that figure dropped drastically and 2014 witnessed just a few numbers of tractors and other machines.
We are interested in rebuilding Nigeria’s agricultural capabilities again; it needs to be revamped. In the past, foods produced locally in Nigeria were 80 per cent locally produced and 20 per cent was imported. Currently, the reverse is the case.
We are committed to offering value for all stakeholders by acting with safety, integrity, sense of urgency and attention to details.
How far would mechanisation go with attendant high cost?
That you have two hectares of land, for instance, does not make you a farmer. Renting that land to a professional will do a lot more and in return, yield constant income to the landowner. Agriculture is not just about farming. It is about the entire value chain, which is important. It is capable of turning people into entrepreneurs within a farming community. Clock start ticking as soon as you start work in the farm, as there is ripening stage for both the crops and animals and there is need to understand where the market is avoid wastage. This means, you must get your market first prior to production as perishables, for instance, could take 48 hours to remain good. There are situations where there are produce but no market. This is where the value chain comes into play.
There are several considerations in employing mechanisation. It is not about immediate cheap cost of purchasing a tractor. An instance is: if you buy five million Naira tractor and it last just two years and at the same time, you buy N10 million tractor, and it last between 10 and 20 years, obviously, the later makes economic and business sense and more cost effective, too.
Considerations in introducing hi-tech machines
We are very much aware of Nigeria’s soil texture and weather among others. For instance, when people demand a specific design of a tractor, the first question to them is what do you want to use it for and why? In most cases, they really do not know. The reason is that farms deserves to get the right equipment for the job they intend to do and that is also dependent on the type of soil and size of the farm.
Not everybody can be a farmer even though they have some idea. I am very much interested in agriculture, mechanisation and farming. If for instance you have two hectares of farmland, you have to maximise it so as to get your improved revenue.
Between agriculture and oil
If we are physically looking at the amount of money generated, oil and gas is first. But again, if Nigeria’s agricultural sector is well developed, funded and equipped, it will go a long way. Although agriculture is not as easy as people think. I am from a farming family in the United Kingdom and started farming at very early age. It is 24 hours, 7 days a week work: no weekend holidays. It is a real hard work, especially when you are doing it for a business. Not everyone should be a farmer. Farming is the oldest business in the world and has developed globally. It is technology driven and you can get good revenue depending on the type of equipment used.
About Panafrican Equipment
We are involved in the business of construction and mining, which started in 2009. I have been in Africa for the past 15 years and have equally been to 26 different countries and in Nigeria, for two two years. Since then, we, as Panafrican Group are directly involved in agricultural matters in Nigeria.
Way forward for Nigeria’s agricultural sector
Agricultural sector in Nigeria will be uplifted by the private sector because of accountability. Access to a single digit credit line is also important.
Source: The Guardian NGR