The thrust of my last week’s piece is that agriculture is the most important business in the world as attested to by great minds among whom are Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB) and Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Aare Afe Babalola, founder,Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
We need food to live and stay healthy; we need raw materials to feed our agro-allied industries; we need to return to agriculture as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy; we need to create wealth; and agriculture has the potential to provide the opportunities to achieve all these and more.
But to play in this all important business, you need to find a niche; that is finding a place for yourself in a specialised area within the agro industry. There are diverse agribusiness opportunities that range from farm to table.
That is, all the activities associated with the planting of the seed and nurturing it to maturity, from harvesting, storage and packaging until it is sold as food and served on the table or processed into secondary commodities.
You have to choose from the vast opportunities, the one you think that is capable of yielding profit. What we are talking about here is commercial agriculture characterised by efficient use of production technologies and inputs to engender higher productivity, profitability and improved well-being of farmers.
We are talking about adoption of best practices in production, value addition and marketing of the farmers’ produce. We are talking about a whole lot of activities covering agro-chemicals, breeding, crop production, distribution, farm machinery, processing, seed supply, marketing and retail sales.
This means that everybody can find one interesting area or the other to invest. It also entails capacity building by way of skills acquisition and enterprise management.
The aim is to have a commercially viable and market-oriented sector with the potential to create the bulk of the needed jobs along the value chains. It involves all agents of food and fibre value chain and institutions that influence it.
The business consists of activities and disciplines involved in modern food production. So where do you find yourself in the ladder of these agricultural value chains? Where do you have capacity, skills and the wherewithal to invest in? There are four stages in the agricultural value chains in which any serious minded individual can play and find financial security.
They are the input stage in which the farmer needs inputs such as agro-chemicals, fertilisers or seeds. And you will agree with me that many are making a living in the manufacture and sale of these materials.
The second is crop production or livestock production where the farmer plants his crops or rears his animals and the third is processing, which is where the farmer adds value to his primary products. Processing promises a very high return on investment.
And then, you have the marketing and distribution stages. Mechanised crop production is money spinning, brain tasking and offers opportunity for exercise; all one needs to live a healthy and happy life. For those who have reasonable capital and large piece of land, they can embark on production of cash crops such as cocoa, oil palm and cotton.
These would require a large expanse of land and have long gestation period in terms of return on investment. For those with little or no money, they can engage in food crop production that requires small capital outlay, less space and shorter gestation period. Such food crops are yam, rice, maize, beans, cassava, and sweet potato.
Better still, they can embark on improved rice varieties production, hybrid cassava, hybrid maize, cucumber, tomato, watermelon. Every household consumes rice in Nigeria, maize is a staple food for humans and also used for animal feeds.
There is a huge market for them. Cassava is used for food in various forms and for baking bread and other confectioneries while fruits such as water melon and cucumber are in high demand. Animal husbandry is also lucrative but requires special skills.
This includes poultry, grass cutters rearing, rabbit rearing, goat rearing, and snail rearing and bee-keeping. Poultry includes chicken, guinea fowl, turkey, and duck rearing. Poultry products such as eggs, chickens, and catfish are delicacies that are consumed by many and so yields high returns.
A woman started with 100 pullets and developed the business to over 80,000 birds plus incubators that produce day-old chicks. The processing value chain is all about adding value to raw materials either for industrial purposes or consumption.
This is where the money is. Farmers are encouraged to move from primary production of agricultural products to processing and marketing. An agro-processor can take advantage of the cheap and often wasted agro-products due to spoilages in the farms.
The processor will earn a lot of money by adding value to the raw materials and also encourage the farmers to produce more since they are assured that their products would be purchased by the agro- processors. Thus one can go into cassava flour production, fish and poultry processing and packaging, tomato paste production, packaging and production of fish and poultry feeds.
You can process cassava into garri, flour, glucose, maize into pap and animal feeds. Find an area that is suitable to you and venture into it. At each value chain, there are lots of opportunities in which anyone interested in agribusiness can play. Go for training where necessary. If you need help, e-mail me. Dare to succeed!