Historic North-South Rail Transportation of Cattle, Farm Produce Launched

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NIRSAL estimates N950bn in annual revenue
James Emejo in Abuja
The Executive Governor of Zamfara State, Alhahi Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, on Thursday formally flagged-off the historic movement of cattle from the North to South by rail.

The project, which is being facilitated by the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture (NIRSAL) in partnership with ConnectRail Services commenced with the transport of an initial 15 wagons of 500 cattle from Gusau, the state capital.

He said an efficient rail system played a critical role in the revolution of the agricultural sector, adding that the initiative will afford farmers the opportunity to easily move products to all parts of the country, and with wider access to markets as well as enhance their profitability.
Represented by the Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Mallam Ibrahim Wakkala Muhammad, the governor commended NIRSAL for the innovation in rail transport of farm produce and also praised the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for reviving the ailing rail system.

He added that the impact of the new initiative would be felt all over the economy.
He said the state would continue to partner with any initiative that boosts the agricultural potential for people.
The take-off came barely two weeks after NIRSAL announced the commencement of its National Farm to market scheme to enable a low cost and efficient transport link between agricultural producers and consumers across the country.
NIRSAL estimates the total value of live animal trade between Northern and Southern Nigeria at between N850 billion and N950 billion per annum.

Currently, the total value of the North-east-Lagos cattle trade market alone is estimated at N324 billion per annum, excluding the North-South-East cattle trade or the trade in small ruminants including sheep and goats.
Speaking at the inauguration, Managing Director/Chief Executive, NIRSAL, Mr. Abdulhameed Aliyu, described the event as a landmark in the history of the Nigerian agricultural sector and a practical demonstration of the current administration’s vision to take country beyond oil.

The project is a culmination of two years of intensive work by NIRSAL and Connect Rail.
He said the movement of cattle represented the first component of NIRSAL’s “Farm to Market” flagship programme designed to boost value and efficiencies across the agricultural value chain through a remunerative, sustainable and market-focused food production that achieves greater equity so that farmers and other agricultural producers get more reward for their efforts.
He said the  ultimate plan was to enable the movement of meat in the form of carcasses in chilled containers as is done in the developed world.

Abdulhameed: “What we have witnessed today is the culmination of this rigorous and consistent effort to demonstrate that agric in Nigeria can be innovative and business oriented. The transportation component launched today is only the first part.

“The next phase of NIRSAL’s effort for the commercial development of the livestock value chain will include the creation of business models and specific financing products for the Ranching and Trading components of the value chain. The strategy is to mainstream all the actors into regular and sustainable relationships with structured finance and structured markets. This will include the transportation of carcass and cut beef in refrigerated containers.”

He commended the vision and commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari, the leadership of The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and the active support of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Audu Ogbeh, for bringing the initiative to fruition.

Also speaking at the event, the Managing Director, Connect Rail Services, Mr. Edeme Kelikume said: “The potential of rail in boosting exchange between the north and the south is immense. As logistics providers we are excited at the magnitude of this scheme and the massive impact it is going to have on the economy.”

The scheme is projected to reduce the cost of transporting cattle from the north to the south by over 20 percent, minimize injury and death of cattle while in transit and also preserve their value so livestock breeders can get good price for their produce at the destination markets.

Over the past three weeks, as part of a test run of the historic initiative, cows were transported from Jebba to Lagos by rail within two days in a journey that takes several days by road.
The arrival of the cattle in much better condition than herded cattle generated excitement in Oko-Oba, a famous abattoir in Lagos.
Furthermore, it was disclose that discussions with respected global names in refrigeration technology on the design of the refrigerated chilled containers are ongoing.

NIRSAL’s mandate is to catalyze a national agricultural revolution by boosting food productivity and food security through the mechanism of de-risking the agricultural value chain in order to encourage investment by banks and the entire financial sector.
The focus is to enable a structured, sustainable and business oriented approach to agriculture that can stand the country in good stead in the emerging post oil Nigerian economy.