Breaking New Grounds

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With the recent receipt of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme approval registration certificate, making it the first-ever ETLS certificate covering no fewer than 18 of its products, NASCO group of companies has recorded a new milestones, writes Seriki Adinoyi

The ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), which first came into existence in 1979 stipulates that for any product to qualify, such a product must pass certain criteria including possession of at least 60 per cent of its total quantity of raw materials originating from within ECOWAS region, input of other materials deployed in production has received a value-addition of at least 30 per cent of the ex-factory price of the finished goods, and that the product must prove substantially changed in the tariff heading, among others.

While many see this new achievement as a pleasant surprise, those that are conversant with the history and tract record of NASCO, makers of various consumer goods with its corporate headquarters in Jos, Plateau State, know very well that the company has broken many similar records in the past.

The story of NASCO is indeed a story of innovation, diversification and growth. Its rich heritage is filled with the pioneering and visionary spirit of its founder.

The company started operations in 1963 with the establishment of a jute bag factory in the central city of Jos, Nigeria – the very first in sub-Saharan Africa. This was in response to the desire by the founding fathers of Nigeria on the eve of independence, to meet the challenge for the effective bagging, storage and export of the large agricultural yields within the nation at the time.

Since then, NASCO has been building a company whose values are deeply held – a commitment to people and communities, to quality and customer service, and to success in the marketplace and its abiding faith through robust reinvestment in the business here at home in Nigeria, without any iota of doubt whatsoever.

Successive generations have continued to grow the company and adapt the business as markets evolved, demonstrating the entrepreneurial flair and strength of purpose that is required for a business to survive for over half a century now.

Over this period, NASCO has achieved many milestones and contributed significantly to Nigeria’s rich agricultural and industrial heritage. With faith in the local economy, many new factories were established in diverse areas from food and household products to packaging materials and industrial chemicals. In all of these companies, NASCO sources for, and depends on almost 80 per cent or more on locally sourced inputs, for its production processes across board with the aim of growing Nigeria economy.

The company’s business expansion model has been majorly driven by a conscious, deliberate backward integration focus. This is why nearly 95 per cent of its investment in new machinery, technology and manufacturing plants have been specifically tailored annually, to grow and sustain the value chain in agriculture; further assuring, empowering and guaranteeing the livelihood and continuing survival of thousands of Nigerian farmers, their dependents and middlemen of all classes, among others.

NASCO Group is one of the largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies in the West Africa region. From its headquarters in the heart of Nigeria, the company manufactures and distributes an outstanding collection of popular brands across the food and household sectors. NASCO takes great pride in making superior products in a manner that is consistent with the highest standards of corporate behaviour, placing consumers at the centre of everything it does.

NASCO Foods Nigeria Limited is a member-company of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN). And it’s indisputably one of the pioneer biscuits manufacturing companies in Nigeria. In 1984, NASCO Foods Nigeria Limited made history when it became the first indigenous company to pioneer the local production of cornflakes and allied cereal products in Nigeria, a brand that has today become a market leader; preferred by many because of its crispy, fresh and delicious taste.

Contributing immensely to the economy of the country, NASCO is today the largest private employer and tax payer in Northern Nigeria and Plateau State. It is equally one of the largest private employers in all of northern Nigeria. It directly employs thousands of talented people across its various sites and offices, and indirectly sustains the employment and livelihoods of over 500,000 people across the nation. Students on Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) from various higher institutions of learning across the country have also found a fertile ground for their industrial training in NASCO.

Recently highlighting the various brands of the company, Mr. Haroun Harry Audu, a Marketing and Communication consultant to NASCO said, “The Group is comprised of several distinct business divisions, though each and every one of them is devoted to the same ideals. We apply rigorous quality management procedures across all aspects of our operations which exceed the requirements of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).”

He said, “We constantly enhance these procedures to ensure our products are always of the highest quality possible. Today, NASCO’s factories are all IS0900 I: 2008 certified, with member group including; NASCO Foods, which is the biscuit, cereal and snack unit of the group, and is a leading producer of many popular brands. It produces the nation’s favourite breakfast cereals, as well as a rich variety of quality biscuits and snacks.

“NASCO household is the detergent, soap and cosmetic unit of the Group, and is a manufacturer of a variety of renowned products as well as industrial chemicals. It is a customer-oriented business with a dedication to unique products and brands that have become an integral part of peoples’ daily lives, while NASCO Pack is the packaging and paper converting division of the group, and serves the packaging needs of the associate NASCO units as well as external clients. It specialises in multi-colour offset printing and corrugated board cartons, and is a strong player in the packaging sector of the economy.”

He said the Fibre group is the longest established company, and was founded in 1963 as a manufacturer of jute bags for the country’s thriving agricultural sector. Over the years it has diversified into the production of carpets and blankets, and today it is a major supplier of felt to the mattress industry and automotive industry.

The Riceco group is the milling and processing division of the Group, and its central location provides easy access to some of the best arable cropping areas in the region. It processes a variety of grains such as rice, maize and wheat flour, further supporting the nation’s farming community and agricultural development.

NASCO Trade (Nastrade) is the general trading arm of the Group. It focuses on the external conversion and distribution of various NASCO branded products such as cube sugar and quality tea. NASCO Property (NIPCO) specialises in the investment, management and provision of high-quality residential and commercial properties for rent, from executive homes and smart apartments to modem offices and vast warehouses.

On ETLS certificate award, Audu, said it first came into existence in 1979 with agricultural products and artisan handicrafts products covered at the initial state.

He said that by 1990, the scheme was expanded to include industrial good, which created the need for rules defining the notion of ECOWAS ‘originating products’ and ‘rules of origin’.

Rules of origin, according to Audu, stipulates that for any product to be traded duty and quota free within the sub-region, it must among other criteria be wholly produced within the sub-region. That is, it must possess at least 60 per cent of its total quantity of raw materials originating from within the ECOWAS region; that input of other materials deployed in production has a value-addition of at least 30 per cent of the ex-factory price of the finished goods. “The product must also prove substantially changed in tariff heading.”

He said NASCO had filed the application in July, 2015 and after a workshop for consultants on April 13, it was approved barely a year after, with Unimark Consults as lead marketing consultant.

Also speaking of the company’s support, partnership and collaboration scenario in various facets of Nigeria’s growth, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of NASCO Group, Mr. Attia Nasreddin said, “An intentional corporate policy through the last 50 years and counting, has afforded the group the unique opportunity to support, partner and collaborate with thousands of Nigerian farmers, their families, and suppliers of local raw materials and inputs, which constitute 80 per cent of the raw materials we use.

“This partnership is not accidental. It is consistent with our devotion to continually grow the nation’s agricultural value chain (replicated in other areas such as petrochemicals arising from our previously robust relationship with Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited). Today we stand out as the leading FMCG advocate, walking the talk of backward integration in practical, meaningful terms for the benefit of the Agric sector especially in central Nigeria, our immediate neighbourhood.”

He said that between 1963 and 2013 therefore, NASCO has engaged directly, and indirectly, 15,000 thousand farmers who have continued to supply it various produce and raw materials.

As part of its social responsibility to the country especially the host community, the management of NASCO Group recently organised a Peace Polo Tournament in Jos to further boost the much needed peace in the state and indeed, other neighbouring states of Kaduna, Adamawa and Bauchi.

The tournament witnessed clubs like Malcomines and Rano, both of Jos. Others include Bauchi Polo Club, Zaria Polo Club, Yola Polo Club, Abuja Polo Club and the host club, Jos Polo Club.

At the closing ceremony of the tournament which held at the Hassan Usman Katsina Polo field, a large adherents of both faiths, turned out to cheer their teams to victories. Buoyed by the display of friendship witnessed at the event, NASCO promised to continue to sponsor similar events with the return of peace to the state.

The company has also given robust annual scholarships to several students of various higher institutions of learning from the host community of Jos.

NASCO group has also on several occasions organised health programmes such as vaccination, distribution of mosquito nets and the like to the Jos communities where it is situated. It has also built pedestrian bridges across its host communities to better the lots of the people.

NASCO therefore became a nominee for the prestigious THISDAY Awards as best company in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The company in a recent press interaction in Jos also noted that it is not unmindful of the health of the people of its host community, adding that it has devised a way of recycling its wastes to ensure that they do not constitute hazards to the people.

So the ETLS certificated awarded NASCO was just one of those many feathers it had added to its cap for its many good works and quality products.

The certificate confers several types of advantages and benefits to qualified, duly registered and Nigerian entities and their counterparts across the sub-region which include increased market access, duty-free and quota-free for registered and certified products, expanded promotion of economic integration within the West African sub-region, anticipated increases in profitability margins for participating entities, participation in international trade fairs within the sub-region at Government expense, as well as access to loans and grants from the federal government and other multi-lateral agencies among others.

Obviously elated Nasreddin, who briefed journalists in Jos at the weekend disclosed that the companies’ products approved and admitted under ETLS were the five cornflakes brands made up of original, vanilla, strawberry, banana and frotyz, adding that in the biscuit category, were the various brands such as short cake, banana cream, strawberry cream, lemon cream, orange cream and crackers.

Others, according to Nasreddin, include the Brytex and Bonus detergent as well as Plus Lemon dish wash, plus lily dish wash, Beauty ocean hand wash, beauty Lavendar hand wash and beauty rose hand wash.

Outlining the benefits of the ETLS authorisation, Nasreddin said this would give NASCO increase in market access, which means that all the registered products would be traded duty and quota free with expanded promotion of economic integration within the West African sub-region.
This, he added, will also lead to anticipated increases in profitability margins, for participating entities and products.
Nasreddin also said that exports through the scheme would enable exporters to access loans and grants from the Federal Government and other multilateral agencies, and these are spelt out from time to time by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other quasi financial institutions.

He added that qualified and certified entities would enjoy participation in international trade fairs within the sub-region at government expense through the Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC) while exporters would key into and benefit from reimbursements under the soon-to-be revived Export Expansion Grants (EEG) scheme of NEPC.
He applauded Nigerians and indeed other customers across the globe for their continued support, stressing that his company will continue to enhance and deliver products of the highest quality which aims to satisfy not only its numerous customers but one that will also ensure value-chain addition to the overall economy of Nigeria.