By Ayuba Iliya and Idris Jibrin
Tropical General Investment (TGI), a leading international investment and holding company, is advancing the agricultural revolution in Nigeria.
The company, which has specific interest in fast-moving consumer goods, agricultural inputs, industrial chemicals, homecare products and pharmaceuticals, has in the last few years made significant investments in the rice and sesame value chain in Kebbi and Jigawa states respectively.
WACOT Rice Limited – a subsidiary of TGI and producer of Big Bull rice – has empowered thousands of farmers through its out-grower initiative, with the aim of meeting the food sufficiency needs in the country.
In Kebbi State, one of Nigeria’s leading rice producers, over six thousand farmers in over 85 cooperatives across eight local government areas are benefitting from WACOT’s drive to transform rice production.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Abba Maigari, a 32-year-old rice farmer and father of four from Bachaka in Argungu local government, said in years past, he could barely make ends meet with his subsistence farming.
But with support from WACOT Rice Limited, he said he has experienced exponential growth. He recorded a 100% increase in yields from the same land where he could barely harvest 50 bags of rice due to access to farm inputs.
We are truly benefiting from the harvest here because I was able to get a piece of land and build from the proceeds here.
I have four children and we were able to organise a naming ceremony for each of them with proceeds from here, Maigari said.
Under the programme, WACOT gives farmers agrochemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers of high quality at below market prices.
With hundreds of field agents across the state, farmers are trained and guided on good agricultural practices from pre-planting to harvest of the rice paddy.
Sabiu Muhammad, a rice farmer from Gidan Dangwari in Augi Local Government Area of Kebbi State told Daily Trust that he is now motivated to cultivate his farmland knowing he will make good profit from his toil.
Sabiu believes there’s no agrochemical in the league of WACOT in the market, with guaranteed results as WACOT inputs.
Before WACOT came, we’ve been farming but most often our proceeds end with paying the debt we took to cultivate the farm, ” he said.
But when WACOT came with the out-grower initiative, things started changing. Initially, we didn’t understand how it worked but now we’ve seen the benefits.
In fact, the fertilizer we get is far cheaper than the one in the market.
With the company’s buy-back arrangement, farmers under the out-grower initiative are guaranteed offtake of their rice produce, which is bought from them at a good price after deducting the cost of inputs credited.
Nigeria is Africa’s leading producer of paddy rice with over 8 million metric tons produced annually but only 5.4 million metric tons are processed locally, leaving the deficit of consumable rice to imports.
The Chief Operating Officer, WACOT Rice, Jayant Jagtap, says WACOT aims to fill the gap, leveraging on over 2 million metric tons of paddy rice from Kebbi State yearly to attain self-sufficiency.
We provide them the inputs for paddy production so that their productivity is doubled. For example, the output per hectare of land of what the farmer is getting. So I learnt that it is around 2 – 2.5 tons per hectare of farmland which has now gone up to around 4 – 4.5 per hectare. So that’s the commitment of what we are doing as our corporate social responsibility.
WACOT Rice dual plant sits on a 10-hectare of land in Argungu Local Government Area of Kebbi State, with a combined capacity to process 240,000 tons of rice annually.
The Permanent Secretary, Kebbi State Ministry of Agriculture and Mineral Resources, Joel Aiki, said the state grew from a modest production of about 300 to 350 thousand tons per annum combined seasons, to 2.9 million metric tons of paddy rice since the coming of WACOT.
It has enhanced the food security of the state, and the food security of the country. It has also enhanced the internally generated revenue of the state,” Joel said.
Thousands of jobs have been created directly and indirectly because of the multiplier effect along the value chain from the farms to the markets up to the table of the consumers.
WACOT’s corporate social responsibility impacts surpass the agricultural sector as it extends to the traditional institution of the host community of Argungu.
In an interview with Daily Trust, the Emir of Argungu, HRH Samaila Mohammed Mera, said WACOT participated tremendously in the execution of the last Argungu fishing festival.
“They sponsored and provided prizes for the fisherman with the biggest catch; they also sponsored and provided prizes for the best rice farmers – male and female – and the general organization of the festival.”
The emir said WACOT intervention has also motivated people to go into the agricultural business, including non-indigenes from the southern part of the country who are now leasing farms to plant rice for the obvious benefits that the prices in WACOT are good.