‘We make in­puts ac­ces­si­ble to small­holder farm­ers’

Daily Trust - - GOLDEN HARVEST -

Ac­cess­ing agro in­puts es­pe­cially fer­til­iz­ers has been a peren­nial chal­lenge in Nige­ria. What are the main is­sues?

Iwill not go to the po­lit­i­cal as­pects of this mat­ter but let me go to the real is­sues on ground. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, in­fras­truc­tural chal­lenges have played no small role in this - roads are poor and so get­ting prod­ucts to the hin­ter land is a ma­jor chal­lenge. The re­ally poor road net­work makes prod­ucts dis­tri­bu­tion a near in­sur­mount­able task. Trans­porters strug­gle to get to the hin­ter­land be­cause of dam­age to their ve­hi­cles and man hours lost on long trav­els. The rail­ways have not func­tioned for ages. This would have been such an easy means of mov­ing goods around the coun­try. And it was when they func­tioned.

There are also is­sues of ware­hous­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels. The ma­jor­ity of small holder farm­ers do not re­side in state cap­i­tals or big towns; they re­side in the smaller towns and vil­lages. Agro deal­ers with the ca­pac­ity to ware­house prod­ucts on the other hand live and do busi­ness in the big­ger towns and state cap­i­tals. Dis­tribut­ing the prod­ucts to the ar­eas where they are re­ally needed in the lo­cal­i­ties then be­comes a chal­lenge be­cause of the cost im­pli­ca­tion.

The farmer too, con­sid­er­ing the to­tal cost im­pli­ca­tion of go­ing to pur­chase the prod­ucts far away from his lo­ca­tion would rather for­feit the ben­e­fits of adopt­ing best prac­tice of us­ing agro in­put be­cause of this chal­lenge.

So this is­sue of road in­fra­struc­ture has mul­ti­ple neg­a­tive im­pact on all ar­eas of the econ­omy and qual­ity of life. There is also the is­sue of lit­tle or no ru­ral de­vel­op­ment over the years. How­ever, the pri­vate sec­tor which we are a part of has been ex­plor­ing and work­ing on var­i­ous ways to tackle the chal­lenge, es­pe­cially find­ing in­no­va­tive ways to take the prod­ucts closer to the re­source poor farm­ers in the vil­lages.

Where prod­ucts are avail­able, it is usu­ally be­yond the reach of the small­holder farm­ers be­cause of pric­ing. How can this be changed?

Yes, for the small­holder farm­ers, you Ocheche Os­car Okpe is the Head of Sales, No­tore Chem­i­cal In­dus­tries Lim­ited. In this in­ter­view, he told Daily Trust how No­tore is mak­ing in­puts, es­pe­cially fer­til­iz­ers avail­able to small­holder farm­ers in the right qual­ity and quan­tity at the right time and price. Ex­cerpts: packs leads to a to­tal turn­around in their process. So as an or­ga­ni­za­tion, we fight to en­sure that the prod­ucts are avail­able all year round at af­ford­able prices. The 1kg goes for as low as N250. know we have about 14 mil­lion farm­ing fam­i­lies of about 4 to 5 peo­ple in each coun­try. Among these peo­ple, there are non-users, mild-users and those that have fully adopted.

Like you said and in re­al­ity, a large per­cent­age of the farm­ing pop­u­lace can hardly pur­chase 50kg of fertilizer. And this is pre­dom­i­nantly the mild and nonusers. So, what we did was to in­tro­duce small packs, 1kg, which farm­ers can try on a small por­tion of their farm. Ev­ery farmer can af­ford to buy 1kg of fertilizer. When they buy, and try it out and see the dif­fer­ence in their out­put and ul­ti­mately in their fi­nances, then they are able to buy more and con­se­quently, grad­u­ally and con­stantly im­prove their out­put and in­come.

Usu­ally, some of the farm­ers will tell you their lands are fer­tile, so they don’t need fer­til­iz­ers. But there is ac­tu­ally the case of pur­chas­ing power. So the ex­pe­ri­ence after pur­chas­ing and us­ing the small

You made a bold step in break­ing bulk - cre­at­ing smaller packs of fertilizer. Tell us about this.

Never in the his­tory of fertilizer sales have small packs been pro­duced so we are very proud to have done this. It is also in keep­ing with our mis­sion which is “En­hanc­ing the qual­ity of life”. So we are not just think­ing of sell­ing prod­ucts, but of mak­ing it af­ford­able for ev­ery sin­gle Nige­rian farmer.

As I ex­plained, with the 1kg pack size, we not only cre­ated 1kg, but even­tu­ally 10kg pack as well. So the farmer “grad­u­ates” from 1kg to 10kg and even­tu­ally 50kg. The sizes are in three cat­e­gories. 1kg, 10kg, and 50kg. Should we find a need for other sizes, we will surely pro­duce them.

How do you in­tend to en­hance the dis­tri­bu­tion of these small packs to reach small­holder farm­ers across Nige­ria?

We con­stantly think of in­no­va­tive ways to reach the farm­ers. So we come up with dif­fer­ent schemes from time to time. Ma­jor among them is the SPADE (Small Pack Dis­tri­bu­tion En­hance­ment) project. The essence is to not only create aware­ness of the small packs, but to en­sure it gets to ev­ery nook and cranny of ev­ery farm­ing com­mu­nity in the coun­try. When the small packs first came out, farm­ers didn’t know about it, so the main ob­jec­tive of SPADE is to get the small packs to ev­ery sin­gle farmer in Nige­ria. We got our sales and mar­ket­ing teams to­gether and say, now we have smaller packs, can we get tri­cy­cles, mo­tor­cy­cles or bi­cy­cles to move the prod­ucts to the farm­ers? So, we at­tached an in­cen­tive - if you buy up to a cer­tain quan­tity, we pro­vide a tri­cy­cle that will take the prod­ucts round the vil­lages, ham­lets and other places. We move from the ware­house of the whole­saler - that is the Dis­tri­bu­tion Part­ner (DP), to the agro-dealer, the re­tail­ers and sell­ers of Crop Pro­tec­tion Prod­ucts (CPP). The CPP sell­ers are in vir­tu­ally ev­ery farm­ing com­mu­nity to­day. A farmer who goes to buy crop pro­tec­tion prod­ucts will now have ac­cess to the smaller pack prod­ucts. So, these CPP out­lets have be­come on­estop shops for the small­holder farm­ers.

This looks op­por­tu­nity… like a job cre­ation

Yes. We are also us­ing this pro­gramme to em­power youths through en­gag­ing them in prod­ucts dis­tri­bu­tion. For starters, we are tar­get­ing about 300 com­mu­ni­ties with a min­i­mum of 10 youths in each com­mu­nity so we are look­ing at cre­at­ing at least 3000 jobs in the short term. I mean like over the next few months. Our tar­get is that by the turn of the year, we are hop­ing our plans go as in­tended with a geo­met­ric ad­di­tion of these youths, we would have cre­ated a sig­nif­i­cant amount of jobs.

What are your fu­ture plans for cre­at­ing con­stant prod­uct avail­abil­ity?

The fu­ture plan is to give cash back­ing to the big dis­tri­bu­tion part­ners and con­tinue to ex­pand our net­work of dis­trib­u­tors, agro-deal­ers, re­tail­ers and other in­for­mal sales out­lets. We want to get prod­ucts to the farm­ers both dur­ing the rainy sea­son and dry sea­son - all year round in all parts of the coun­try.

Ocheche Os­car Okpe

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