Absence of farm machineries for hire, lack of credit facilities and activities of herdsmen have been identified as major impediments to successful practice of large scale agriculture in Nigeria.
The Chief Executive Officer, Skapomah Global Limited (SGL) Farms — an agric business company, sited in Anigbado, Abeokuta – Imeko Road, Yewa North Local Council, Ogun State, Mr. Seun Adegoke, revealed this during the media tour of facilities and cultivation of the 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) of the farm.
Adegoke said government’s direct involvement or support in land clearing and preparation, an aspect crucial to agricultural production is frustrated by absence of farm machinery for hire and disappointing services by private sector farm equipment hiring operatives.
A tour of the farm showed thousand of hectares cultivated with rice, maize, cassava, tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon and yam, among other crops.
The principal focus of the farm according to him is rice cultivation. To realise this, therefore, several boreholes were sunk and an earth dam built for trapping water for irrigation. Several farm machinery as John Deere Tractors and implements ploughs, harrows, planters, fertilisers and boom sprayers also adorn the farm.
At the time of the visit, it was discovered that land preparation was intense, especially as rainfall, though delayed has set in. The variety of rice cultivation, Faro 44, in the area under irrigation is almost ready for harvest.
Though the farm is lucky as there are no challenges from pest birds, but the challenges from herdsmen who encroached the farm with their animals has forced the management to invest heavily on security dogs to forestall any threat from the herders and their animals.
While disclosing his preference for certain crops cultivated in the farm, he said his principal focus on rice is due to its commercial value, as it is most consumed, especially in Nigeria, adding that through irrigation, the farm intends cultivating rice at least twice a year.
Adegoke said: “I discovered that rice makes sense because it can be harvested two times, it’s more like a grass even after harvesting, it will sprout, if you put manure after harvesting, it will sprout again, you don’t even need to buy or plant another seed, not everybody knows that.
“Corn is the most demanded crop in the world because of its industrial benefits, rice doesn’t have as much industrial benefit, but it is the most consumed, especially in Nigeria. For me, I want something that before it is harvested the market is already there…”
While noting that the farms has over 400 labourers working round the clock, Adegoke said the farm plans year round cultivation through channeling water for irrigation and effective soil management.
The agriculturist sought for more efficacious approaches by government in efforts to support the nation’s agricultural sector.
“Based on my knowledge and research in agriculture, I discovered that the best part of agric is to probably have wider land. It doesn’t make sense for a farmer who cultivates 10 hectares to buy a tractor of N5m to N10m. The average cost of hiring a tractor to plow a land currently in Nigeria is about N25, 000 to N30, 000 per hectare, after plowing you harrow, that’s about N50, 000 per hectare.
“So, if you are having about 200 hectares and you are spending N50, 000 on an hectare that means you’ll be spending like N10m. So, why not just buy a tractor to cultivate your 200 hectares. In the next six months or so you’ll still use your tractor on the farm because if you are paying an outsider they’ll keep collecting the N10m from you every three to six months, its just like you are buying a new tractor,” he said.
Adegoke revealed that in abroad, a farmer could cultivate 1,000 hectares without any assistance because he has a big tractor to plow, to harrow, to plant, to apply herbicides and to even harvest. “They have drones to apply herbicides; they have GPS technology that indicates if you have applied herbicides before, and you mistakenly direct the drone there it will not apply there, it will cease until it gets to a place where it has not been applied before.
“The drone will work at the same rate every day, but human being will never do that every day, what the drone will do in one day all the 400 labourers we have here cannot do it in one week. The cost of the drone is also lesser than the cost of their salaries, when you have that kind of technology I think what you need do is to look for more land, those are the things I think we are missing in Nigeria.
“Another factor is credit facility, Nigeria’s type of credit facility is nonsense, the conditions here is not friendly. To me, if government can open up bank guarantee or something to manufacturers, the country will be better.”