Boye Olusanya is the General Managing Director (GMD) of Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN). In this interview, he speaks on how the company evolved to become one of the biggest food and agro-allied businesses in Nigeria in its 60 years of existence.
The company recently marked its 60th anniversary, what impact would you say FMN has made in Nigeria?
Since inception, our purpose has been to continue growing a diverse portfolio of accessible, sustainable food products, and investments that enhance the lives of the Nigerian people, today and in the future, whether through the people we employ, the consumers that purchase our goods or the child who recollects a deliciously home-cooked meal prepared with our products. By maintaining this focus, we have overtime, created shared value for our customers, communities, investors and anyone that is connected to our organisation.
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Evolving from a single flour-mill into Nigeria’s large food and agro-allied group, FMN has grown through product evolution, acquisitions and partnerships. More importantly, we have contributed to six decades worth of growth to the Nigerian economy while responding to Nigeria’s changing needs
With a focus on five critical food value-chains, FMN has established several manufacturing concerns, including one of the largest single-site mills in Apapa, a central grains hub and processing mill in Kano, an automated edible oils refinery in Ibadan, a fish and animal feed mill in Ibadan and Calabar, a sugar estate in Niger State as well as one of the largest sugar refineries in Lagos, etc.
As we speak, FMN employs over 12,000 Nigerians, directly and indirectly, impacts several millions more, especially when we consider our numerous community-based outreach and empowerment projects across the country. We place a considerable commitment to enhancing lives within our host communities through infrastructure, skillset development and empowerment.
In October 2020, FMN Group recorded 31 per cent revenue growth, how did you achieve that?
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that the outbreak of the coronavirus has had devastating effects on several sectors of the economy. Nonetheless, as the biggest food and agro-allied group in the country, we are acutely aware of the far-reaching impact that our businesses have on the lives of millions of Nigerians and have always been prepared to ensure that we always meet the needs of the people.
To guarantee that we have unrestricted access to the essential raw materials for our production, we developed a long-term plan that included embarking on a backward integration strategy. We invested heavily in the agriculture and agro-processing sectors and some of these investments include large scale commercial farms and out-grower programmes that enabled us to work very closely with smallholder farmers and farmer groups. This approach also significantly enhanced the local content profile for many of our products, and by extension fed growth and productivity in Nigeria’s food value chains.
What are strategies the company deployed to expand the flour milling business?
Excellence; we are a passionate company that is constantly pushing the boundaries and exploring new frontiers to deliver the best. This focus inspires everything we do at FMN, and that is why we implement the best practices in our manufacturing process, backed by innovation and the ingenious spirit of our people.
There have been agitations by smallholder farmers about the firm stifling them, how has the company empowered them?
The group’s investment in agri-business is essentially anchored on the principle of achieving economies of scale in food production through crop-specific value chains. To ensure that we can raise productivity and accelerate food processing and value addition, we have over time continued to collaborate across the value chains. Our well-defined backward integration programmes include strong partnerships with a network of smallholder farmers and farmer groups across the country.
FMN Group’s Strategic Imperative plan in the years ahead is to create value in the supply chain of agro-allied products and reduce dependence on imported raw materials, how do you hope to achieve that?
As at today, FMN is Nigeria’s largest food and agro-allied group, running a fully integrated ‘farm-to-table’ model. This means that we are involved in all aspects of the food development process.
From agro-inputs like seeds and fertilisers at the crop cultivation stage up to aggregation, storage and transportation when the crops are harvested and processed. This ensures we have complete control over the type of raw materials we use for our manufacturing process and guarantees our promise of quality. While this approach is important to guarantee our access to raw materials, it also allows for the entire ecosystem to flourish.
Amidst stiff competition, how does FMN sustain its presence?
Well, I believe the answer to that is clear. It is all about the quality of our products. We keep our eye on quality in everything we do at FMN. In addition to the fact that our consumers always come first, we never renege on our promise of quality. For instance, we recently adopted the ‘Gold Standard’ in manufacturing for all Golden Penny products. This simply means that we have adopted the highest and most stringent manufacturing processes to ensure the superiority of our products in line with global best practices and the needs of our consumers.
Can you also speak on the about N2 billion the company said it spent in the fight against COVID-19?
Our company, mandated by its unwavering commitment and sense of duty to Nigeria which spans the past 60 years, activated an action plan to support the government in the fight against coronavirus.
We kicked off this plan with the redemption of our N1 billion pledge to the Nigerian private sector coalition against COVID-19. We also commenced a N400 million food relief distribution activity spanning 12 Nigerian states, delivering food supplies to the most vulnerable communities hit by the nationwide lockdown.
The suddenness of the COVID-19 scourge necessitated global economies to implement restrictions to ensure their frontline responders had sufficient medical supplies for the fight against the virus. As such, the global medical supplies chain was severely impacted.
Last year, the FMN group initiated a successful, emergency global supply-chain plan to help provide the Nigerian government with tangible and tactical support during the global economic lockdown. This initiative, which was led by our chairman, John Coumantaros, procured, donated and distributed critical medical supplies worth over $1.5 million. The medical supplies which included 60,000 COVID-19 testing kits, ventilators and over 300,000 pieces of Personal Protective Equipment have continued to help Nigeria manage the pandemic.
Planning for this initiative involved the leadership of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), vendors from five nations, multiple logistics partners, and a tireless team drawn from the FMN group’s operational leadership.
Our team scaled through varying global regulatory restrictions on medical supply procurement, limited stock and transport restrictions, and stayed resolute in the race to help Nigeria manage and flatten the curve.
What are the projections for the company this year?
Last year, we commemorated 60 years of job creation, enriching the lives of Nigerian families and communities, and economic growth. For 2021, we plan to move forward by continuing to re-configure and reposition our various businesses to respond effectively to the evolving environment of the Nigerian consumer market and to continue to create value for our stakeholders.