Obiano’s Secret Behind Agricultural Revolution in Anambra State – Read :
Understanding the Agricultural Revolution in Anambra State
I consider it an honour to stand before this great gathering today and talk about the future of Nigeria. Fellow compatriots; Agriculture is the future of our country. If we look back a little, we may recall that the earliest foundation of Nigeria’s economy was laid in Agriculture. And I dare say that with the fast approaching irrelevance of oil, Agriculture will resume its pride of place in our national economy. This is not a prophecy. No! This is the fact before us!
Now, before go further, I must of necessity, thank Adegboyega Awomolo & Associates Annual Colloquium for finding me worthy of delivering this year’s lecture. I have always said that what makes any democracy strong is not only the presence of institutions but the quality of conversations and dialogues that happen among its citizens. Adegboyega Awomolo & Associates are lending a big depth to our democracy with this initiative. I think they deserve a round of applause. Thank you.
Now, it may be important to note that no meaningful conversation on agriculture can take place in Nigeria without remembering that this great country has 91 million hectares of land out of which 84 million hectares are arable. And that only 40% of this 84 million arable land has been cultivated so far. That Nigeria is blessed with 230 billion cubic meters of water. That Nigeria is blessed with the presence of two of Africa’s largest rivers and has abundant rainfall in over two thirds of her territory. I suppose this makes Nigeria a natural habitat for agriculture. No wonder therefore that before we finally allowed ourselves to be lulled to sleep by the flow of crude oil, Nigeria was a global agricultural power, noted as the world’s largest producer of palm oil and groundnuts and the second largest exporter of coca in the 1960s.
My further research efforts into our agricultural environment revealed that Nigeria is currently ranked as the second largest producer of tomatoes in Africa and the 13th in the world with a production output of 1.701 million tonnes of tomatoes per annum. I also found out that Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of Shea Nuts with 57% contribution to the global output that is valued at $3.8bn dollars. Shea Nuts which are the primary source of Shea Butter are grown in Kogi, Kwara, Oyo, Ondo and Ogun States at the moment. It can be grown in other states of the federation. I also found out that Nigeria consumes 6 million tonnes of chicken in a year but we produce only 1.5 million tonnes. So, any smart investor can see the goldmine that is waiting in poultry and Shea Butter farming. But that is by the way!
Let me quickly observe that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has done a good job in articulating a brilliant Agricultural Vision for the country. According to them, the vision is to “achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through an agricultural sector that drives income growth, accelerates achievement of food and nutritional security, generates employment and transforms Nigeria into a leading player in global food markets to grow wealth for millions of farmers”.
Fellow compatriots, it is not hard to see that perhaps driven by this Vision, Nigeria experienced a surge in national food production between 2011 and 2014. Facts from the official website of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture indicate a growth of 21 million metric tonnes which had a significant impact on food imports. Expectedly, during that period, our food import bill dropped from N3.19 trillion in 2011 to N635 billion in 2013, indicating a reduction rate of 403%. It is impressive to note that we recorded this feat in only two years.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am taking us through all these facts so that we can all see what we left behind in the choice we made in the past and what we can gain from redirecting our gaze to Agriculture as one of the most attractive alternatives to our mono-economic status. Indeed, Nigeria has everything it takes to change her economic narrative and change her history! Interestingly, that is exactly what we are trying to do in Anambra State today –
We have a very interesting story in Anambra State. With only 4,844 square kilometres of land, Anambra is Nigeria’s second smallest state. It is just slightly bigger than Lagos. And with over 950 deep gully erosion sites, we are obviously smaller than Lagos in land mass. Thankfully, that is where the bad side ends. The good side to the Anambra story is that the state has 100% arable land. The second point also is that we do not only have the knowledge of what to do with our land we also have the needed human capital who have the resources and the know-how to do something with what we have.
As some of you may be aware, Anambra is home to some of black Africa’s most illustrious men and women. We are pioneers and achievers in so many fields. God has blessed us with a large repository of gifted men and women who any focused leader can call upon to lend a hand in the effort to build a better state. And that was exactly what we did when I was sworn in as the governor of the state on March 17, 2014.
It is important to note that every purposeful journey ought to begin with a plan. A plan serves as a compass that guides us like the solitary star that guided the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem to see Jesus. In appreciation of this, my team and I started with clear Vision and Mission Statements. I declared that my Vision is to make Anambra State the First Choice investment destination and a hub for industrialization and commercial activities while my Mission is to make Anambra State a socially stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth creating opportunities. I also crafted an Economic Blueprint known as the Four Pillars of Development which seeks to develop Anambra through Agriculture, Trade & Commerce, Industrialization and Oil & Gas.
Ladies and gentlemen, you can see that from the very beginning, I had clear Vision and Mission Statements. You can also see that I have an Economic Blueprint. And perhaps more importantly, you can see that Agriculture is the number one pillar of my Blueprint. So, we did not get to where we are by chance. That is why when people doubt some of the modest achievements we have recorded and seek ways to put them down, we do not pay them any mind at all because there is nothing that is happing in the agricultural sector in Anambra State today that we did not plan for. There is nothing we did not prefigure. And that, to my mind, is the way it should be. Agriculture should not be a subject of speculative or haphazard engagement. It should not be something we stumble onto by chance. It should be a deliberate and pragmatic choice. That is the only way we can extract value from it. That was the way our founding fathers made something of value out of it. For instance, a trip through the old Eastern Region would easily show all the farm settlements across the region set up by the former Premier, Dr. Michael Okpara that covers diverse crops from rice, cassava, plantain and pineapple to palm oil and cocoa. I am happy to say that we are travelling on the same trajectory in Anambra State today as we continue to follow a special blueprint put together by the 14-Man Committee on Agriculture that I set up shortly after my inauguration that was headed by the renowned Professor Chukwuemeka Omaliko, a well-known agronomist.
When we set out, my team and I were quick to realise that with only 4,844 square kilometres of land, we certainly do not have enough elbowroom for agriculture in Anambra State. Out of this lot, about 309,120 hectares of land, which is about 55% of the arable land, is already under cultivation. So, we figured that we had to be strategic in our management of land. As a result, the 14-Man Special Committee on Agriculture headed by Prof. Omaliko was mandated to carry out extensive tests on soil types and advise us on what crop should grow where. We figured that it was important to know where rice would grow best, where cassava would grow best and where maize would grow best based on soil type. We went a little further than that, actually. We also set up a Land Acquisition Committee, headed by Dr. Tim Menakaya; a former Minister. The Land Acquisition Committee was vested with the mandate of negotiating with the different communities across the state to acquire land for large scale farming and other purposes. Today, as more and more Agro-investors come to make inquiries about the possibilities of mechanized farming in Anambra State, we welcome them with open arms and strong assurances that come from having done our homework well. I would advocate a similar strategic approach for Nigeria. We must conduct a thorough assessment of what we have in terms of land and crop suitability to specific soils as a precursor to intense agricultural production in the 21st Century. The era of guesswork and gut-feeling should be behind us!
How we are structured
One of the things that have given us a huge advantage in our quest to position Anambra State as a leader in Agriculture in Nigeria and beyond is what I choose to call Precision Agriculture. What this means is that we have effectively adapted technology to serve specific purposes in our agricultural programme in the state. And this is what we did – we set up a Situation Monitoring Room in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization, Processing and Exports where we carry out a smooth monitoring and evaluation of activities in all farms in Anambra State. We have a data bank of our farmers, their farms, the location of their farms and the crops they produce and we can effectively monitor progress on these farms from the Situation Room in Awka. By this also, our investors are more informed about the level of bankable investment that they require .We also put a call and SMS through to these farmers when necessary. At the moment from our database, we have 93,000 validated farmers and 1850 validated cooperatives spread across 21 local government areas in our data bank. A breakdown of this figure shows that 11,425 farmers are involved in rice production, 36,245 farmers produce cassava while 4000 farmers are into maize production. We also have 649 cooperatives involved in cassava production, 621 cooperatives in rice production and 155 in maize production. While more farmers are being captured to update the data bank, a look at the farmers distribution chart shows the following –
SEE TABLE 1 AND 2 ATTACHED
Similarly, the production targets that Anambra has achieved on account of our intervention on our three staple crops are as follows –
SEE TABLE 3 ATTACHED
All these were achieved because of the training and other assistance that my administration provides to Anambra farmers.
Lighting the Flame
When we ignited the fire of the Agro-Revolution in Anambra State on May 15, 2014, many people did not think we were serious about our action. It just didn’t make sense that anyone would be talking about farming in Anambra State. People wondered what had happened to the markets in Onitsha and Nnewi and all the markets across the world where our people are driving commerce. They believed the stereotype that portrays Ndigbo as nothing more than traders looking for the smallest human settlement to set up their shops. But we know that from pre-historical times, our ancestors had great farmers whose wealth was measured in the number and size of the barns where they stored their yams. It was a thing of pride among our ancestors to go beyond feeding one’s family to organizing lavish feasts for the entire community. This often manifested when they took highly revered titles or when they gave out their children in marriage. Our thinking then was, if our ancestors could feed an entire village in pre-history, Anambra State should be able to produce enough food to feed Ndi Anambra and still have enough remnants to export to the rest of the world. So, when I lit the fire of our Agro-Revolution in Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area, I knew that I was not only starting a new and dignifying chapter for my people but I was also challenging ancient stereotypes. Nevertheless, I went ahead to ignite the Revolution with the flag off of the Farming Season. It turned out a battle cry of sorts. We rolled out 100 tractors and handed out tonnes of improved varieties of seedlings.
We organised our famers into cooperatives for ease of management and effective distribution of agricultural support.
In order to keep a sharp focus on our drive for excellence, we had to come up with a concise objective in Agriculture. We declared that our Objective is to ensure that Anambra State joins the Top-3 states in agricultural production in Nigeria. We needed an objective that would galvanize all our efforts in one direction. With our objective intact, we began the quest for credible partnerships. It is important to note at this juncture that there can be no serious transformational effort in agriculture without a strategic partnership with the private sector. In our case in Anambra State, we have the advantage of having many entrepreneurs who have the resources and the knowledge to play a role in our programme. What was needed from us was to demonstrate a bold resolve to push through our initiatives and show commitment to our own plans. In other words, the investors were simply waiting for our body language. A major part of our body language is the setting up of the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA) which was conceived as a one-stop investment supermarket that offers almost instantaneous solutions to the challenges a prospective investor encounters in the process of putting down his money for profit within an economic system. ANSIPPA made the entire process of investing in Anambra State seem like a walk in the park; eliminating all the bureaucracy and making our response rate to investment inquiries work like magic. I must not fail to note at this juncture that before ANSIPPA, we had also demonstrated a more convincing body language with the intense crackdown on criminals in the state which turned Anambra into the safest state in the federation. All these form a major part of making the operating climate friendly and receptive to investors.
Our Investment Story
A direct result of creating a favourable investment climate is that it creates a ripple in the investment community. Investors are often highly aware of the existence of a new investment haven. Being risk takers, they have a nose for unlikely information and are more likely to hear local news than the residents of a particular community. The same principle applies to our narrative of excellence in Anambra State. On hearing the modest achievements we had recorded in fighting insecurity and in setting up a proper institution like ANSIPPA, many investors came knocking on the door. Among these risk-takers are 9 Agro-investors who together have collectively changed the agricultural landscape of Anambra State. These investors include Coscharis Farms which invested $110m dollars in rice production, Joseph Agro Limited with $150 million dollars in rice production, Delfarms Ltd with $200 million dollars in integrated farm project, Novtech Farms with $50m dollars in rice production, Eckcel Farms with $100 million dollars in tomato production, Lynden Farms with $61 million dollars in integrated farm project, MIP Farms with $10 million dollars in tomatoes and Greenhouse production, Tricity Integrated Farms with $11.4 million dollars and Silos & Grains with $23.5 million dollars in a malting plant.
While most of our partnerships with Agro-investors in Anambra State have taken off, companies like Coscharis Farms, Joseph Agro Ltd, Delfarms, Lynden Farms, MIP Farms and others appear clearly in the lead at the moment. In fact, Coscharis Farms has demonstrated extraordinary passion and commitment to change our agricultural narrative. The company played a key role in pushing our local rice production from 80 metric tonnes to 210,000 metric tonnes. Anambra consumes 320,000 metric tonnes of rice per year. At this rate, Coscharis Farms alone can easily help us to meet and surpass our rice consumption in Anambra State in two or less harvest seasons. Coscharis is practising big industrial farming with ultra-modern machines. The company sits on about 2800 Hectares out of which only 2000 hectares have been cultivated so far. At optimum capacity, Coscharis will be producing about 120,000 metric tonnes of rice per annum. There is also Joseph Agro which farms on 500 hectares and Novtech Farms with 1000 hectares and 200 hectares.
The Special Story of Stine Industries Ltd
Stine Industries has earned a mention in this lecture because of the prominent role it played in the emergence of the famous Anambra Rice. Stine is the leading rice mill in Anambra State with a capacity to produce 440 metric tonnes of rice, approximately 10 trailer loads of rice in a day. Stine is one of the success stories of my administration as it is a beneficiary of the first round of disbursements of N2 billion we made to start-ups in Anambra State under the auspices of the Anambra Small Business Agency (ASBA).
Indeed, what we know today as Anambra Rice is a product of the collaboration between the rice farmers and Stine Industries. The good news is that Anambra Rice was adjudged the Best Rice Brand in Africa at the last African Produce Exhibition in Lagos in February this year. It defeated contending brands from South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Cameroun, Zambia and Ghana to emerge Africa’s Best. Ladies and gentlemen, you may recall that we set out to become one of the Top-3 states in Agriculture in Nigeria. But we now have an international recognition in less than two years. That is the power of vision and focus!
Our Export Success Story
Another success story that I must not fail to mention is our Agricultural Export Programme. In anticipation of the outcome of our Agro-Revolution, we established the Desk and mandated it to do the following –
Develop Agro allied export market potentials for the State.
Identify exportable products and align them with the various famers cooperatives
Develop market linkages internally and across the value chain.
To Ascertain and identify IGR opportunities that exist in each process.
To develop opportunities with industrialists and manufacturers who require Agro products as raw materials.
Ladies and gentlemen, in line with this initiative, vegetable produce from Anambra State, specifically Ugu and Bitter-leaf were successfully exported to the United Kingdom on January 21, 2016. The value of the produce is estimated at $5m dollars.
Anambra farmers are exporting vegetables, especially Ugu and Onugbu to the UK, thanks to a special arrangement with ABX World Cargo Ltd in partnership with Bosh Produce and Eagle Solution. Under this arrangement, a new route has just been developed that will grant access to the US market to Anambra vegetables. This programme will take off in November this year. This new route will give Anambra farmers the chance to export yam and other produce to the United States. I have no doubt that when operational; it will be just as successful as the export route to Europe.
Meanwhile, here is a list of the locations of the vegetable farms in Anambra State –
Anambra East LGA – Onono, Umuikwu, Umudora, Agwe Oroma, Mmiàta.
Ayamelu LGA – Anaku, Omo, Ifite_Ogwari, Omasi.
Idemili North – Abatete – Oraukwu, Nimo.
Orumba North – Umuchu, Ndike, Ndiowu
Orumba South – Eziagu, Umunze, Ogbunka, Ogboji.
Ogbaru LGA – Obioshimili, Osamala, Igbo Ifeanyi, Odoekpe
In addition to Ugu and Bitterleaf, other produce like Okro, Utazi, Nchuanwu, Pepper, Sweet Potato, Plantain, Sweet Corn, Pineapple and Avocado pear among others are also becoming increasingly popular.
From the Farms to the Factories
One of the things we are doing to lend roots to the Agricultural Revolution in Anambra State is providing the critical links between the famers and the industries which need their produce as raw materials. It is heart-warming to announce that Sorghum which is used is brewing beer is produced in a commercial quantity in Delfarm/Songhai Farms Ltd in Igbariam. What we have done is to link the management of Delfarm/Songhai Farms Ltd up with the management of SABMiller Breweries in Onitsha who are the brewers of Hero Beer which is a very dominant drink in the Eastern markets. Under this arrangement, the sorghum that is produced in Igbariam makes a short trip to Onitsha and comes out as beer to meet waiting lips. That is an impressive achievement. We are exploring a similar arrangement between our farmers and the management of Tiger Foods Ltd who are the largest makers of spices in West Africa. Arrangements have reached advanced levels to ensure that these spices are produced by our local farmers. By the End of February 2016, Tiger foods will have conditioning equipment that has a capacity to produce over 10,000 metric tonnes of vegetable for export to Europe and the United States of America. We are also holding discussions with Grand Cereal Ltd for a likely link up with farmers for the supply of cassava and maize. This will not only ensure the survival of our industries by saving them the extremely scarce foreign exchange but it will also boost the capacity of our farmers by offering instant demand for the produce. If you ask me, this is what Nigeria should be doing at this moment in time!
Agriculture and Employment
All over the world, Agriculture is known as one of the largest employers of labour. Nigeria is not an exception. In fact, in 2015, the Federal Government aimed to create 2,800,000 jobs for youths in the agricultural sector alone. Similarly, in Anambra State at the moment, about 15,000 people are currently employed in the agricultural sector. Our projection is to create over 300,000 direct and indirect jobs from both Enterprise and Small-holder farmers and others employed in the agricultural value chain across the state. I know that we can achieve this and by the Grace of God, we will!
In conclusion, I have made an effort to show that Agriculture is the future of Nigeria, at least for now. It would have been more fanciful to talk about the future of Nigeria in terms of science and technology but our current literacy levels make that unlikely for now. However, with over 84 million hectares of arable land, Nigeria can feed herself and export enough produce to grow her economy. So, agriculture will remain a very attractive option to us for a very long time.
Meanwhile, for Nigeria to truly change her almost pathetic mono-economic profile and take advantage of her rich arable land and excellent climate that favours farming, here are the steps we must take –
Identify and streamline a list of crops that grow best in Nigeria and those with high economic values and encourage farmers to adopt them.
Adopt a scientific approach to traceability and farming by building a data bank for farmers. This will help us identify the true farmers among us and their holdings and ensure a more effective distribution of farm input. Experience has shown that large commercial farmers can effectively co-exist with the small-holders when properly organised. No farmer is dispensable in a structured agricultural system. This is what we have done in Anambra State.
Set realistic targets in agricultural production that will keep all stakeholders in focus and totally committed to their realization.
Develop clear export windows for our farm produce. If we dominated palm oil, cocoa and groundnut business in the 1960s, we can achieve a similar feat in 2016 with proper planning.
Create and sustain synergy between commercial farmers and industries that need their produce as raw materials. This will minimize capital flight and boost domestic production and employment.
Finally develop a strategic firewall to check the influx of seedlings and various other inputs to avoid any form of contamination and uncertified products into our farms.
These are just a few of the many things that Nigeria should do to break the yoke of over dependence on oil and carve out a sustainable pathway that will lead us out of the present recession. This is what we have done in Anambra State. Nigeria can do it better!