Ajayi Grace Atinuke, the Chief Executive at SITOG Global Foods Limited, in this interview with SEYI TAIWO-OGUNTUASE, suggested the need for the various governments to support and make funds available to all farmers irrespective of tribe, race or gender to boost their farming activities. Excerpt:
Recently the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directed that all commercial banks and authorised dealers should stop processing forex for maize importation. What is your take on this since maize is about 70 per cent of poultry feed?
For me, this is a right step in the right direction. It’s long overdue.
Importation is killing our economy, the more we import the more we create loads of unemployment.
We only need government’s intervention and support.
Adequate funding should be made available and it should be accessible for all; irrespective of your tribe, race, religion or gender. Though there have been some CBN interventions, it must be accessible for all. And I can tell you that everyone will go back to the farm to plant maize on an industrial basis and we can supply the feed millers for the production of our poultry feeds.
I can tell you that the ban on the importation of frozen foods has helped a lot of farmers who are into poultry business as their chicken are consumed by the populace.
Though it might not be convenient for all at the beginning of the policy but in the long run it will be favorable to all.
As a livestock farmer, what change did you envisage to bring by venturing into the business?
First and foremost, I will like to let you into my background.
I studied Agriculture at the University of Ilorin as my first degree, and then proceeded to the Federal University of Agriculture of Abeokuta for my Masters in Soil Mineralogy and I am currently doing my PhD in soil mineralogy.
Since I studied Agriculture with great expertise and interest, I don’t see myself functioning in another field, and we all know that agriculture is the bed rock of the nation.
I started full farming in the year 2017 at Oke-Aro Pig farm estate, before I ventured into poultry farming where I raise day-old Chicks, Broilers and supply of eggs and processing of livestock on my own property.
Rearing and processing of livestock’s is very important but more importantly is the processing of livestock because of the health implication.
We process the animals in safe and hygienic conditions so as to have a better quality product.
Also, part of our plans going into the business is to create employment for the teeming youths in Agriculture knowing fully well that Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy.
It is also pertinent to note that we also have plans for training Centers; both in the class and on the field. The facility is expected to train young ones in Agriculture, and this will boost their confidence level. All of these are our game plan for the Industry.
What are you doing differently from others to ensure that meat bought from your farm is hygienic?
Well, we maintained a good, clean and safe environment. At first, we would get a very healthy animal, be it Cow, Pig and the birds.
We mostly pick them from our farm in which we know their history.
We have our slaughtering slabs in which we maintained a very high hygiene and our dressing room is not accessible to outsiders as we wouldn’t want them to contaminate the dressed animals.
Before this period, in this period and beyond, Good hygiene will always be paramount to people as they take their health in high esteem. At SITOG, people’s health is our concern.
What are some of the challenges you have been faced with since inception?
One of the challenges that a young agricultural entrepreneur faces is the inaccessibility to government funds.
Quite a lot of promises have been made by the government but accessibility to such funds has been a challenge.
Was your farm affected by the swine flu that ravaged pig farms recently across the country, and if yes how much did you lose?
Yes, our farm estate in Oke-Aro was badly hit and I personally lost millions of naira.
The flu came unexpectedly to us and many lost their source of income.
What measure have you put in place to forestall such occurrence in the future?
One major way is keeping a hygienic environment for the animals and always having a thorough fumigation at Intervals.
Also, constant vaccination of the pigs is very important. We must always ensure that our environment is very safe and clean to forestall such future occurrence.
What advice do you have for intending Farmers?
It’s very important for anyone venturing into Agriculture to acquire information as it is key to success in the business.
A farmer should get the right funding as money is needed.
He should be diligent and consistent as these virtues are important to attain success in the business.
Also, days of little beginning should not be despised, and the farmer should have it at the back of his or her mind that money may be lost in the course of farming, but there should be an optimistic mindset that lost money can be regained at a later time.