Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Premised on the ban on some items and the intervention schemes on agribusiness by the Federal Government, Rilwan Raji, who is an agribusiness expert, a consultant and the founder of Dekoraj Farms and Equipment Company, believes that the potential in farming, like never before, is huge; with untapped opportunities for willing investors.
Raji explains how poultry farming, aside other ventures in agribusiness, can be very lucrative, even if ventured into on a small or medium scale.
During my National Youth Service programme, the Bank of Industry (BoI) did their first NYSC Graduate Enterpreneurship Funding (GEF) program to empower 1,000 corps members with best business plans nationwide with easy loans. I was among the 1,000 with best business plan nationwide. I was one of the best in Lagos State. BoI has always been supporting entrepreneurs, and I registered my business so as to access the loan. Well, I never took the loan because I was believing in myself that I can start an agricultural business with the experience I had garnered from my parents. My father was an engineer who fabricated agricultural and industrial equipment, and my mother is a businesswoman and an active farmer. With the little money I saved as a corper and the technical knowledge I have in modern day agricultural and industrial equipment fabrication and animal and crop farming from parents, I knew my parents had given me the best gift in life which is knowledge. I now have what it takes to conquer poverty. I have been practising my parents’ trade before youth service but on a very small scale. I was able to raise my initial capital through my personal savings. I served as a corper at Lagos State Internal Revenue (LIRS). I got double payment from LIRS and also from the NYSC. I started saving to get modern machines for agricultural equipments fabrication and farming business, since my father’s workshop was still available for me to start.
In Dekoraj Farms and Equipment Company, our services include general farm setup, building, training and consultancy services. We also look into sales of battery cages, both imported and locally fabricated ones. We have feedmill machines and catfish oven. We sell poultry birds and chicken processing equipment such as de-feathering machine, chicken cutter, killing cone, scalder, cassava grater, presser, automated incubating machine of different sizes and capacities, de-beaking machine, transport cage, egg crate, feeder, temperature and humidity metre, automatic syringe, gas brooder transport crates, ice fog machine, etc. We also sell drinkers and feeders.
Being a young enterpreneur, it is always difficult dealing with first time clients, coupled with the belief about some youths being fraudsters. Based on the fear of being duped, due to the general mentality, they bring stringent conditions, being first time. After feeling our products and services, they now trust us and start referring more clients to us because of the trust they have built. Also, one of challenges we face is imitation on the equipment we newly design. After fabrication, we start seeing people gradually doing it but they don’t get it right. Most clients fall into their hands and get bad products. Some people upload our products and start disguising as Dekoraj Farms and duping people. They open Facebook accounts in our name and start to commit all forms of cyber frauds. Electricity was another major challenge before. Even when we have a standby alternative source, nothing is as good as the national grid. This is really improving now, as we see that the government is really trying on that. Loan accessibility is another challenge we face. Loans are not easily accessible, yet there are too many conditions with a very high interest rate but, gradually, we hope that the CBN active intervention on agric will change things.
Some of these challenges can be contained through youth empowerment. The government should empower our youths, whether through grants, easy access to loan with a very low interest rate, fast loan disbursement, etc. A lot of people have applied for agric and non-agric loan which is yet to be released to them, after many months. Government can also come up with trainings and seminars. They can allow companies like us train our youths. Copyright is another thing killing people who are ready to innovate and do creative things. The government should strengthen that area.
People should enjoy what they suffer for. Government should also create an enabling environment for investors.
I train and guide people. On a regular basis, I take them for site farm visitation. We value our integrity and customer satisfaction so much that we don’t compromise. We set up farms for people and help them from start to finish. I am always with them so they don’t make mistakes. We are professionals in the farming business. I travel nationwide so as to ensure spread of our quality services. There are some basic knowledge one needs to have to go into the business. We handle that for you with all the passion in us.
For us, we are not too relaxed because of the good patronage and referrals we get. Competition makes us improve more on our agro equipments fabrication and design. We work more on our other products and services so to always be on point for customers’ satisfaction. The competition makes our company a force to reckon with. Farmers in this part of the world are slow in changing their farming practices due to lack of exposure such as trainings, seminars and agricultural exhibitions. An example is raising birds on the floor which is an old system of raising birds; bush burning, deforestation and rain-fed agriculture. Most people lack the requisite education, information and training necessary to adapt to climate change and technological advancements. Here, there is still the old management practices as farmers don’t take farming as real business that needs proper and modern management system. In developed countries, farming system is topnotch, less stressful and produces a higher result. They have mechanised their farming completely.
Farming business is very profitable. For instance, poultry farming is a business that does not need too much introduction. The funniest thing is that it can still be referred to as untapped because the few ones we have in the country are badly managed. It is a highly profitable business. The rate of poultry egg consumption is very high in Nigeria, being one of the cheapest source of protein. Also, the government’s food programme for students is really boosting egg business more. Any farmer who goes into egg business will never regret it. It is another goldmine. Poultry birds processing is another super business in poultry which is still not tapped yet. About 75 per cent of what is consumed is still being smuggled into country. With the smuggling plus locally produced ones, it still hasn’t met up to 30 per cent of what is required. The recent government fight against smuggling and agricultural interventions will really boost the business for investors.
Note that rice farming, cat fish farming, snail farming are all still not fully tapped. Agriculture is very lucrative.
Prospects for investors
Farming in Nigeria, particularly, is an opportunity for big businesses and investors. Recently, farming in Nigeria has become the new crude oil with a lot of untapped opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to venture into it. Every year, millionaires are made through farming. Farming has created a lot of direct and indirect jobs, and the truth is that there is no end to the prospects of creating more wealth through farming in Nigeria in the coming century. Farming will always do very well in Nigeria. For Foreign investors, Nigeria is a country that treats foreigners like family – no racism. We have a high population of more than 200 million people which makes farm produce demand high for a population which is times two or three more than what we have in some other countries. Yet, birth rate is still increasing. Nigeria depends majorly on staple foods produced from farms, for daily consumption and sustenance. About 90 per cent of Nigerians buy farm produce from the market. No African country has this population which makes Nigeria a viable place for farming business.
Also, Nigeria has the highest purchasing power in Africa which implies that Nigeria is a real good place to make money. Nigerians love parties and merriment such that the sum of Nigerian party foods nationwide can feed four countries. Nigeria has a lot of fertile land for farming but only about 25 per cent is still being used. More than 70 per cent is still available for farming. The present government is seriously promoting farming business in Nigeria with all necessary supports so as to reduce food importation drastically, creating more enabling environment for enterpreneurs and investors who want to venture into farming. By the time Nigeria attains full agricultural capacity, agriculture will become the new foreign currency, implying that farmers will make more money in naira and foreign currencies.