Catapulting Nigeria into a Dairy Giant

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Crusoe Osagie discusses Friesland Campina WAMCO’s foresight in its initiative to drive local production of milk

Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, recently advised Nigerians to quit lamenting over the economy which is now in shreds.

He urged Nigerians to take action instead of just complain. Love Obasanjo or hate him, this advice from him is critical to the nation’s survival and must be heeded.

As for FrieslandCampina WAMCO however, the company did not wait for the economic logjam before it began to take steps to wean its business and indeed the nation’s dairy industry off total dependence on imported inputs.

Since 2012, or slightly earlier, when Nigeria earned premium prices from its hydrocarbon assets, FrieslandCampina WAMCO was able to see beyond the nation’s pseudo economic security and began to plan for sustainability in the dairy industry for both itself as a company and the economy as a whole in the rainy days that were ahead.

In this regard, this frontline milk producer had launched a Dairy Development Programme (DDP) in Shonga Dairies in Kwara State to harness local sourcing of milk in Nigeria.
“Our aim is to support the federal government’s initiative to develop dairy farming in Nigeria by providing the required technical know-how on milk production to Nigerian farmers and also provide the necessary market for the farmers, “Bob Steetskamp, the company’s CEO at the time said.

Today, with the current economic realities, the dairy giant’s decision to drive the DDP is almost prophetic. Operators in different sectors of the economy are scrambling for scarce foreign exchange to import raw materials and many of them are now beginning to consider programmes similar to the DDP which FrieslandCampina WAMCO conceived nearly five years earlier.

In keeping the corporate promises made by its Global CEO, Mr. Roelof Joosten, when he paid a courtesy call on President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in August this year at the Aso Villa, Abuja, the company has intensified and sustained its dairy development programme (DDP), which successful pilot in Oyo State may soon be replicated in choice small-holder farm settlements across Nigeria.

This is with the full backing of Royal FrieslandCampina, The Netherlands. Already, two Dutch experts, at the behest of FrieslandCampina, visited Nigeria in September to inspect the DDP facilities in Oyo State. They are Imke de Boer, Professor of Animal Science, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and Janine Luten, Managing Director Wageningen Academy. While in Nigeria, they held cooperation talks with their counterparts at the University of Ibadan to formalise ways of training local dairy professionals.

The dairy giants have announced plans to shoot up its local content contribution into dairy production to 10 per cent over the next five years, noting that this move was borne out of the need to explore and exploit the untapped natural endowments ‎in the country.

The Corporate Affairs Director, FrieslandCampina WAMCO, Mrs. Ore Famurewa, explained that the company, currently doing three per cent of local content contribution, believes that in no distant time, it would surpass its 10 per cent target, stating that the company has an existing partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) to support dairy development in Nigeria.

In her words: “We plan to meet 10 per cent local content contribution in the next five years, but it has been very challenging. We have signed an MoU with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to support us in our dairy development programme. Presently, we are at three per cent because dairy development is a gradual process, but for us, slow and steady, we would surely win the race.”
Famurewa during a field trip to the company’s facilities in Ibadan, to give journalists first hand experience on how it produces milk from ‘farm to glass’, said most milk producing companies do not source any of their raw milk locally, saying that the company had so far spent over N4 billion on its DDP designed to boost local content development in the nation’s dairy sector.

She said: “We are not only about making profits, but balancing between profit, philanthropy, community development and this is an agenda that we have really pushed forward because we believe strongly in supporting every country where we operate. We have also been very forward looking in driving local content in milk in the various countries where we operate. Many other oil producing countries have all started dairy development for many years, so for us in Nigeria, we thought we should also, despite all of the challenges the country is facing, start a dairy development programme in Nigeria.”

According to her, A lot of people in the country have complained about Fulanis going into their farms to graze, causing mayhem, but overtime we have been able to reduce this menace in Oyo. We are working not only with the Fulani farmers, but also with the indigenes as well. We have been able to train these farmers to supply quality raw milk to us and of course, they have been able to earn a living. It is important to let as many people as possible know about the success stories of the DDP so that other dairy companies can borrow a leaf to ensure sustainable local and inclusive business model across Nigeria.
We have started with Oyo, but have plans to expand because we believe that dairy development will be a national programme.”

Also speaking at the event, the Research and Development/ Dairy Development Manager, Mr. Lawrence Inegbenoise, said the DDP is aimed at addressing the challenge of ageing farmers across the country, scarcity of natural resources and the fast growing population.
We believe the way to address these challenges is having DDPs across all our regions.
“We have been working with the Fulanis and based on our experience in other countries, we have crossbreeds that would increase milk production. We have started with the Fulanis and the next step will be having a crop of young graduates that would be trained as small holders dairy farmers in clusters to get the entire infrastructure needed to boost our operations in dairy production,” he said.‎

He pointed out that the company had built infrastructure in order to ensure quality assurance, by deploying the use of cold chain systems which he said regulates the timing of milk due to the short shelf life of the product.

“Milk has a 2 hour shelf life and as a result of this, we make sure after getting our milk from these farmers, we take it to our cooling centers to ensure quality. ‎We also train these farmers on hygiene and everything on how to handle their cows and milk. We tackle quality from the cow up till the point when it gets to our facility here in Lagos. We have trained the farmers to the extent that they know when the milk is good,” he added.

‎He noted that the company provides extension support services ‎to get improved productivity from the cows, supports cooperatives to improve their milk quality and the safety of their products as well as create access to market for them to sell their products.

“Our role is to see how we can support these farmers at one end and help to refurbish their systems to global best practices. We believe that to grow sustainably, we must take care of the growing population, address ageing farmers and avoid conflict by managing land. If we continue to have fulanis moving around, land will continue to be a problem, but if we are able to settle them in the small holder dairy development system, then it is possible to address conflict. In the Netherlands, the cows graze in their stables and they are very big, producing about 40 litres of milk daily. If the cows are happy and relaxed they produce very good milk and this is what we are hoping to make possible in Nigeria‎
The the tour also featured  professional European partners from the Netherlands, Imke De Boer and the Managing Director, Wageningen, Ms. Janine Luten, expressing their delight about the DDP, noting that the initiative would bring the company closer to the local community.

‎De Boer said the investment is aimed at improving the social status of the population, urging indigenous companies to increase their investments in local production rather than importing most of what they need. ‎

‎”We are very impressed about the investment made by Friesland WAMCO made and its efforts in trying to actually work with the local community because at the end these investments are aimed at improving the social status of the population. Nigeria should invest in local production rather than importing and I think the investment is a very good start. We believe we can share our knowledge with the local farmers because they know the local situations. We want to identify the areas where we can share our knowledge. We will be at the University of Ibadan to train young professionals in local dairy production,” she said.
She advised that priority should be given to the development of Infrastructure, maintaining that infrastructure is vital to scaling up dairy development in the country.