Recently, there was a report that the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) interventions on agro-processing were unrealistic and only on paper. In this interview, the Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Harvestfield Industries Limited, Prince Martins Awofisayo, a major player in Nigeria’s agriculture/food sector debunks this. Asides his expertise in agrochemicals’ production, Lagos-based Awofisayo is also an active member of Croplife Nigeria, an association of Nigeria’s major agrochemicals’ producers). He enlightens the masses on various issues surrounding interventions in Agriculture and how it can boost food self sufficiency.
In your view, how has the CBN intervention enabled your company and others keep afloat despite the ongoing farmers’/herders’ clashes and the incidence of Covid-19?
MA: Definitely the issue of farmers/herders crisis is beyond CBN control and it has affected the expected results negatively but despite the challenges, it has recorded successes in food security for the nation during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. The CBN interventions in agriculture have made farmers’ associations become more organized, structured and committed than ever before.
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How will you react to the recent pronouncement in one of Nigeria’s major news media by a leading agro-processor that the CBN interventions on agro-processing were unrealistic and only on paper?
MA: That is incorrect! It is unfortunate that we are reading that from the sector ( cassava processors) that has greatly benefited from most of the CBN interventions in agriculture, that is, Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme and Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
I am aware of a lot of agro- processors that have gotten funding support from the CBN. It is CBN that has revolutionized cassava production in Nigeria through its intervention funds.
On the November 19, 2019, it was this same CBN that launched a targeted project called “Cassava Value-Chain Intervention Project” where an MOU was signed with Executive Governors of Cassava Producing States, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, Large-Scale Cassava Processors and Off-Takers of Cassava Derivatives.
Therefore it is uncharitable of anyone to disparage CBN on its intervention programme, especially when the sector which you belonged to has benefited immensely, either directly or indirectly.
What intervention strategies would you suggest to the government and its bodies to further stem the tide of an impending food crisis occasioned by vagaries of the weather, farmers’/herders’ clashes, unaffordable costs of farming inputs and others?
MA: The CBN has just launched another intervention fund tagged “100 for 100”and I would like to appeal to the CBN to ensure that projects related to agriculture are given prominence for sustainability of food security in Nigeria.
The Federal Government should invest more in agriculture, especially dry season farming, to increase food production by investing more in irrigation farming throughout the country. As at now, our agriculture is predominantly rain fed farming system which is no longer sustainable to feed the nation let alone exports due to adverse climatic conditions.
Could you briefly enlighten us on successes of your business so far that could be ascribed to your benefit from the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS)?
MA: Our company decided to embark on backward integration in 2017 after being a major importer of agrochemicals for over 15 years and also to support the vision of the Federal Government and that of the CBN on “Produce in Nigeria what we Consume and Consume what we Produce in Nigeria”.
To achieve this objective we applied for the CBN CACS facility in 2017 through our Commercial Bank ( Wema Bank) and we were successful in our application without any stress. We subsequently built one of the largest first generation agrochemical factories in Nigeria, located in Ogun State and commenced production in 2018.
Our factory currently employs over 800 direct workers and over 10,000 indirect workers through our value chain nationwide. We have over 15,000 dealers and retailers including 27 warehouses nationwide.