The group head, Commercial Division at Notore Chemical Industries, Mr Tijjani St. James, is passionate about Nigeria’s quest to end food imports and enhanced opportunities for local farmers. He speaks to AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE on basic farming information.
How much of information has Notore shared with local farmers in the North in the area of basic agricultural information in the last two years?
In the 2017 wet and dry farming seasons, Notore engaged slightly above 1,644,017 million smallholder farmers across Nigeria. Of this number, 900,359 smallholder rice farmers in Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Imo, Anambra, Adamawa, Gombe and Benue States were adequately educated in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) on the adoption of the Urea Deep Placement Technique for the rice high yield-boosting Notore Urea Super Granules (USG) brand. Cassava and cowpea best practices were delivered to over 400,000 smallholder farmers via video viewing centers set up in 528 rural farming communities.
What is the impact of such information on harvest?
As has been widely reported, Nigeria’s rice production is about 7,000,000MT and importation of the product has dropped significantly. Most of the rice retailed across Nigeria today is fully farmed, processed and bagged in the country. These are all direct consequences of the bumper rice harvests that farmers have been experiencing, thanks to favourable government policies and the huge contribution of private sector players like Notore.
Farm inputs such as fertilizers and other chemicals still remain a luxury to many farmers, how can the price gap be bridged by the private sector?
Prices of products are a function of production costs, haulage, distribution/marketing costs, excise, etc. The current high retail prices of fertilizers in Nigeria are a reflection of the high costs manufacturers incur to produce them. Government is aware of this. That was why in its agricultural intervention through the PFI, for example, government negotiated low prices for key constituent raw materials and logistics to local NPK blenders so that farmers can purchase the product at the fixed price of N5,500. Extending such support to major indigenous fertilizer companies like Notore will definitely reduce retail prices of fertilizers.
Notore has been driving internal efficiencies in the past 6months to reduce production and distribution costs. This has, to a large extent, been responsible for the drop of Urea retail prices from N7,200 in August last year to N6,500 per 50kg bag now. Our desire is to work collaboratively with the government to ensure farmers enjoy much lower prices.
Local farmers’ laments that attention is given to big commercial farmers leaving them to fend for themselves hence, the poor yield they get annually. How can this huge gap be closed?
This is not true for us at Notore because our route-to-market strategy is designed around the smallholder farmers. Notore has over 5,300 trained Village Promoter staff supporting the company to expand its agricultural extension services into the deepest rural farming communities. We have always put the smallholder farmers at the heart of our marketing activities because they are responsible for over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s agricultural outputs. Very soon, we will be coming to the smallholder farmers with cassava specialty blend fertilizers that will hugely impact cassava yields and harvest. Over time, the smallholder farmers have grown to recognise Notore’s efforts and have in turn been rewarding the company with unflinching loyalty and patronage.
Can Notore share few of the strategies designed to get more farmers on board the network of its information sharing?
Our strategy is wrapped around our mission: to enhance the quality of life. We have been working with like minded development agencies to not only ensure farmers get timely information on modern best farming practices, but support their economic wellbeing as well. Our partnership with AECF for example, has enhanced rice farmers’ awareness and adoption of the USG which has increased their rice harvests. We are currently exploring partnership with GiZ to deploy solar powered flagship communication and distribution outlets in deep rural communities to increase agricultural extension video viewing and fertilizer purchase points. This will shorten the distance traveled to buy fertilizers and improve farmer education. We are also expanding our Village Promoter network to 6000 by 2019 to improve information dissemination.
The federal government in recent years has focused attention on banning rice importation into the country to encourage local production. What is your take on this?
The decision to cut down on rice importation to focus on domestic production is an laudable move in every sense. According to the World Bank, Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice, and its rice is cultivated on 9.2millon hectares of land area. Nigeria sits on 34million hectares of arable land per FAO’s estimation. Imagine the volume of rice we could churn out, the employment rice cultivation alone will generate and the level of selfsufficiency we could attain if we can harness resources, structure the agricultural value chain and put in place the right policy framework.
As a company in the forefront of the African Green Revolution, Notore has tirelessly been working to provide farmers with high yield rice inputs. Notore Rice Seeds and the Notore USG fertilizer which is specifically formulated for rice, significantly impacted the Kebbi State rice boom.
Apart from fertilizer and seed inputs, farmers need linkages with credible paddy off-takers and easy access to low interest financing. Small, Medium size and customised farm machinery are also essential to the rice sufficiency drive. This is the area government needs to bring in the Polytechnics and Universities of Technology. We have to fuse these technology institutions into the agricultural system and the economy to fabricate desired equipment and small machines.
On our part, Notore is fully committed to supporting Nigeria’s Agricultural Development.
We have just given out 22 redistribution vans to some our distributors to focus on reaching deep rural farming communities with fertilizers and seeds nationwide.
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