Folorunso: Nigerian Environment Not Conducive for Budding Entrepreneurs

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The CEO of Porkmoney (Divergent Enterprise), Mr. Muyiwa Foluronso, in this interview with Judith Obaze, spoke on the philosophy behind the business, federal government’s diversification policy, the agricultural sector, among other issues. Excerpts:

Do you think the current determination by the federal government to diversify the economy is achievable?
It is definitely achievable. The diversification of the economy is probably the only option left for development and growth. This is because the economy continues to be over-reliant on oil, the numbers speak for themselves. Oil accounts for 80 per cent of government’s revenue and 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings. No country can totally depend on only one economic sector, especially one that is blessed with a lot of natural resources like Nigeria. I believe that there are great opportunities for non-oil sectors to grow and this growth has been visible since 2001. Of course, the changes cannot be that quick and the transformation will not happen overnight. However, the federal government can develop different sectors by taking the important steps necessary for growth to take place. We can no longer be a mono-economic country.

Why did you venture into pig farming?
The idea for Porkmoney grew out of the desire to tap into an over neglected sector of livestock farming (pigs) that has the potential to create value and change the agricultural ecosystem for good. Long ago before Porkmoney was launched in 2018, I had visited a pig farm in Ogun State. One of the biggest in the country and realised how fast the pigs grew and the viability of the pig farming system in general. I knew this was something I needed to be a part of and I am glad for the decision that I made. We are currently the leading Pig farming enterprise in West Africa and our results speak for itself.

You said you are currently on a mission to build the largest privately owned pig farm in West Africa with a holding capacity of 40,000 pigs. How do you intend to achieve this?
One of our short term goals for 2020 is to own the largest non-government pig farm in Nigeria. Outside of the controlled and cost efficient farming effort this allows, it also allows for the training of the future of pig farming in the country. Our resources and efforts would see us encourage thousands of people to become vested in this sector of the livestock agricultural ecosystem. We have currently purchased a 100 acre property in the Epe area of Lagos for this purpose.

Why did you decide to locate your farm within the Epe farming zone?
To establish a large pig farm, particularly of that size, a lot space is required for this purpose. The Epe area of Lagos provides the vast space we need to breed that many weaners. Also, we strategically positioned our farm in that area because of its proximity with breweries where a large quantity of our feed is gotten from (shafts).

How easy was it for your partners to on-board into the scheme?
Quite easy actually. We are offering our financial partners value for their monies invested and providing them with security as well as an avenue to create wealth for themselves. And also for the consumers of our end products, we ensure that our products are of the best quality and ensure customer satisfaction and retention.

With the high risk involved in livestock, what is your plan to mitigate and ensure investors’ money are safe?
We are well aware of the risks involved with livestock farming. However, we put precautionary measures in place for security purposes. To protect from livestock loss, all PorkMoney pigs are insured by the Nigerian Agriculture Insurance Corporation (NAIC).

What is the major role of Porkmoney?
Pig farming contributes largely to the food production and food security of the country as well as the generation of revenue by localising the production of pork products thereby bringing to a minimum, the heavy importation of pork products. At Porkmoney, we are empowering farmers by providing them with the necessary resources they require to thrive while farming pigs, ensuring that they are well informed about new and modern pig farming practices and also providing small scale farmers with a platform to expand.

Is your N250, 000 minimum amount to invest not on the high side considering you are advocating for more people to come into the business?
In as much we are making our partnership opportunity accessible and practical, we ensure that we do not compromise on value and our entire pig farming process. Our partnership package includes the breeding of weaners. (5- 100) from birth to maturation, their feeding, vaccination and the entire veterinary treatment. Also, our partners also get to earn between 15-30 per cent return their investment in 11 months. If anything, believe our partnership packages are quite reasonable.

The firm has said recently it has completed three phase of partnership of over 430 clients and 15, 000 pig farmed, what challenges did you encounter and what contribution does it have on pork demand in the Nigerian market?
We are definitely impressed with these numbers and hope to do much better this year. However, every business comes with a few challenges. One of the challenges we constantly face is the need to micro manage casual workers. Many of them compromise on set standards by cutting corners especially in meat processing and livestock welfare. Another challenge is the religious sentiments in this part of the world towards pigs and pork products. However, this was a more pronounced problem at inception and it is gradually disappearing with time. Our retail brand, Porkoyum is how we meet the ever growing demand for pork and its products since we realised that majority of the Nigerian populace enjoys and consumes pork. We currently have three products – Porkoyum Bacon, Porkoyum Sausages and Porkoyum Pork Cubes retailing in over 30 stores across Lagos.

Considering the different disruptive agricultural technology platforms in the country, why are you solely into pig farming?
Agriculture has remarkably evolved from what it used to be. Farmers are now more enlightened on the use of technology and getting trained on the technical know-how of machines with many Agri tech companies taking the lead, introducing various models of farming and further enhancing agricultural value chain. For us, pig farming is our focus. Why? because it is one of the lucrative and profitable livestock businesses. Commercial pig farming is beneficial due to the fact that pigs are prolific breeders and can deliver 10 to 14 piglets in a single birth. They also have the highest feed to meat ratio with pigs being non too picky about what they consume.

What are your future plans on expansion in line with the agricultural promotion policy of the current government?
About a decade ago, the federal government established this policy to rebuild the Agricultural sector whose relevance had shrunk dramatically. This was reflected in the lack of lending to farmers by the financial system and the dramatic levels of food imports from across the world. At Porkmoney, we are contributing to this in our own little way, by empowering farmers and promoting the indigenous production of pork to reduce its importation, contributing to food security and further enhancing the economy. Our desire is to continue to expand across board and continue to unlock the sectors potential, reduce dependence on crude oil export and ignite the growth of the Nigerian economy, through agriculture.

What do you aim to achieve with your pig farm master class?
Last year we launched our free Pig farming seminar as part of our corporate social responsibility for existing and intending pig farmers, looking to learn the basics of the Pig farming business in Nigeria. The results have been quite impressive so far. We have had over 150 people in attendance, with the majority starting out their pig farming businesses already. Our goal is to continue to train individuals about educate more people about the viability of pig farming industry, thereby encouraging more people to contribute in the value chain.

In your wealth of experience as an entrepreneur, how did you overcome the initial obstacles of finance?
Starting out in business was hard. I had no capital, training or resources to start my journey, which is a challenge of many budding entrepreneurs. The brilliant ideas were there, all that was needed to execute them was finance, which was lacking. The very first successful business idea I started was a fashion business called True Rebel. I raised capital by selling. The customer is the first line of capital; I was lucky enough to understand that. It didn’t take long before a little capital grew. Capital for me is quite simply the ability to create and market value.

Vaccines and disease surveillance have always been the bane of animal husbandry; how do you react to that observation?
Livestock are very prone to diseases, hence the need to constantly take precautionary measures such as the administration of vaccines and disease surveillance activities across the farm to prevent disease outbreaks. Very recently China, witnessed its biggest animal disease that claimed the lives of the livestock and cost the country to lose billions of dollars because of its flawed surveillance. So it is important for other pork producing countries to take adequate disease surveillance and testing programs in order for these diseases can be detected early enough and prevent a fast spread. And so far our farm partners under our management have taken adequate measures that have seen us not witness any outbreak since our launch in 2018, we expect that with our measures this would continue to be the case.

What will you consider as the most limiting factors to entrepreneurship, especially for youths?
Lack of capital has to be one of them. Aside from the fact that the Nigerian environment is not too conducive and encouraging for budding entrepreneurs, raising capital and access to funds, has to be one of the biggest challenges for youth in business. Another is the unfavourable tax policies, poor management, corruption, lack of training and experience, poor infrastructure, and a lack of specialised skills to scale one’s enterprise, none of which is insurmountable for the determined person.

How would you rate Nigeria’s scale of Small Medium Enterprises, compared to Malaysia and other countries?

The SME sector is the backbone of major developed economies, as well as important contributors to employment, economic and export growth. Malaysia is doing remarkably well when it comes to the business scene. About 98.5 per cent business establishments in Malaysia are SMEs which contribute to 36.5 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) and 65 per cent of the country’s employment. This is impressive. But despite the significant contribution of SMEs to the Nigerian economy (48 per cent), challenges still persist that hinder the growth and development of the sector. Some of the overriding issues are access to funding, lack of skilled manpower, the multiplicity of taxes, high cost of doing business, among others. This proves that there is still much to be done.