Alhaji Isa Muhammed Gerawa is the Chairman of Gerawa Group of Companies – owners of Gerawa Rice Mill. The group of companies has been one of the leading rice mills in Nigeria. In this interview, he said the company will lay the foundation of an ultra-moderns, state of the art rice mill with a capacity of 560 metric tons per day and officially commission another 400 tons per day rice mill. Excerpt:
Tell us more about this ultra-modern mega rice mill
This is another attempt made by Gerawa Group of Companies to complement the federal government’s efforts of ensuring that Nigeria as a nation attains food sufficiency. We have already completed a 400 metric tons capacity rice mill which will be officially commissioned by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele (CON).
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We have also completed all arrangements to construct another bigger rice mill with a capacity of 560 metric tons per day. This foundation laying of the mill will also be done by the CBN Governor.
To those of us that have been in the industrial sector for over 36 years, this is a huge milestone achieved by the company that was established two and a half years ago. Our move in the establishment of this factory is to complement the federal government’s policy of economic diversification.
Do you think Nigerian farmers can feed the growing number of rice mills in Nigeria?
We are very much optimistic that with the federal government’s intervention in the agricultural sector, Nigerian farmers are growing more rice that will in due course give more than sufficient paddy to the rice mills.
It is on record that through government intervention, Nigeria produces more than 70% of its rice demand annually. To every concerned citizen, this is a welcome development that will surely improve the national economy as well as reduce the nation’s dependence on other countries to feed the nation.
What is your view on the quality of rice locally produced and that of the imported variety?
As I speak to you now, many Nigerians will not accept foreign rice even if you offer it to them for free. The Nigerian rice milling sector has come of age and it is doing excellently well in ensuring that it meets up with international standards. This is why we spend huge sum of money to establish an up-to-standard rice mill that will mill rice to international best standards.
Moreover, the federal government policy on border closure has encouraged and opened the citizen’s view on the capability and capacity of the nation’s agricultural sector as well as the rice milling sector to efficiently supply the nation with its annual food requirements.
Thank God the federal government’s effort on the agricultural policy has been vindicated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Had the Nigerian government not embarked on that policy, the nation would have been in a serious mess by now because definitely there will be a serious food crisis.
Don’t you think the activities of rice smugglers will negatively affect your efforts?
In my view, government policy on border closure seriously crippled the activities of smugglers in the country. The growing participation in agricultural activities through the government’s several interventions in the sector has made smuggling not attractive anymore. And as I said earlier, people are now more attached to locally milled rice than the foreign variety. Presently, an average Nigerian prefers local rice to the foreign one which is smuggled into the country.
Similarly, with the foresight of Mr President, many people have realized the opportunities present in the agricultural sector along several value chains and I am optimistic that no one will be willing to revert to the nation’s past status of dependence on foreign countries for the nation’s food supply.
What is the secret behind your company’s success?
The secret is that we have never ceased to produce despite all odds, no doubt it wasn’t easy but this is a sacrifice that we all have to make to push the company forward. The rice mill isn’t our first attempt in the industrial sector. We have a poultry feed company and soybeans/groundnut processing company as well. We believe in investment in the industrial sector and this is what we have been doing.
How would you rate the federal government’s policies on agriculture?
For every right-thinking individual, the federal government’s economic diversification policy in various sectors of the nation’s economy has yielded positive results. Newly established agro-product businesses have emerged, states have discovered their potentialities, business establishments have seen business opportunities to expand their horizon as well as encourage small-scale enterprises to flourish.
In a nutshell, the several developmental policies of the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari have positively enhanced the economic sector of the nation and I hope the tempo will be sustained.
What is the company’s staff strength?
Presently, the company has a staff strength of more than 2,000 direct workers and, to be honest, we can’t specifically tell the number of the indirect beneficiaries considering the length of the value chain attached to the rice mill. When completed, both rice mills will be producing 960 metric tons per day and you can imagine what that entails.
What are your prayers for the country’s industrial sector?
My prayers are to let the present tempo in the way and manner development policies are formulated and implemented be sustained. We are all living witnesses to the way the federal government stood by its policies, especially that of the border closure, despite the many criticisms, and also we have witnessed what positive impact such policies have on the nation’s economic development.
It is apparent that such policies should be sustained to solidify the achievement so far. I am sure in a short time, even if the ban on rice importation through the land borders is lifted, no one will be interested in the old ways as their impact is apparent.