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‘Underrated crops that can fetch farmers money’

Mr Dayo Olunolwo, Managing Director of Agricapital Ltd, Ibadan, in this interview explains that there are crops with huge economic potentials, which Nigerians can make…

Mr Dayo Olunolwo, Managing Director of Agricapital Ltd, Ibadan, in this interview explains that there are crops with huge economic potentials, which Nigerians can make money from.

What does Agricapital do in the Nigerian agricultural space?

We run an out-grower scheme in which we act as an aggregator from the farmers to the off-takers.

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The off-takers tell us what they want and we get the farmers to plant what the off-takers want following their specific standards and specifications.

Tell us about the crops involved?

Currently, we plant thyme, Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP), white onions, ginger, turmeric, maize and cassava.

Some of these are sometimes underrated by farmers but they can fetch them cool money.

You also said to be more into seasoning leaves than food crops?

We specialise in these because they are demanded by our off-takers.

They look at the market and they are innovating, with the aim of import substitution.

For example, Nigeria imports thyme and no major player is cultivating it.

Importing thyme into Nigeria yearly costs about $50 million.

We have off-takers to buy thyme leaves now. Our farmers plant and off-takers buy.

Who are the off-takers?

We have Sano Foods which buys orange-fleshed sweet potato, thyme and turmeric.

They use them for bread, cookies and other products.

Integrated Feeds Limited also off-takes yellow maize, cassava and other products, among many other off-takers.

What makes your services more attractive to farmers? Why should they enrol here when they have associations?

What differentiates us is that we do not just aggregate, we train our farmers in good agricultural practices and currently, we have two farm assurers certified by GLOBALGAP in our team.

These enable the farmers to meet the requirement of offtake standard, increase yield and encourage business continuity among parties.

We also have programmes for the welfare of the farmers and their families. The first one is the farmers’ medical programme.

When the farmer or any of the family members is sick, we have provision for medical care loans.

At the end of the production cycle, we deduct the loan from their produce sales.

We also have a farmer housing programme, in partnership with a company, which is aimed at building affordable houses for farmers.

But the challenge is that farmers have not been keeping record or are financially included.

So, we assist to arrange their books, partner with banks to get them included financially by opening accounts for them and getting them BVNs in preparation for the housing scheme.

A family education scheme for farmers is also there.

Any of the farmers may want to buy books, pay school fees; we have provision for loans to take care of that.

The loans for farmers are affordable; between 2 and 5 per cent interest rate.

We also have a farmers’ extension network.

If farmers do not have land but they want to farm, we network them with people that have the land.

We also have farmers’ access cards, a form of credit card that farmers can use to buy food and groceries from major stores.

We run these services so that farmers can concentrate on their farm operations.

How is your experience with farmers loan default in the scheme?

What we do is that we pay them on delivery of the produce.

We also spend a lot of time and other resources monitoring the farm businesses.

We do not sit in the office and assume that everything is well.

We gave some farmers, for example, seedlings but they failed to plant it.

In the process of visiting every farm, we detected that early.

So, we monitor when it is time to prepare land, plant, apply fertiliser or pesticide.

We supply all the inputs to them and the balance is remitted to them after the sale of their produce.

So, because we monitor them well, we are able to ensure delivery.

We tie them to groups.

We do not do isolated cases.

We do it in a way they can guarantee one another and check defaulting.

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