Boosting Local Food Production

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Even as the price of food stuff seems to be skyrocketing in recent times, Founder and Chief Trader, Titan Farms, Gbenga Eyiolawi, a rice farmer, is determined to feed as many Nigerians as possible with affordable and quality food. Mary Nnah writes on his bold steps in boosting local food production

In as much as the Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on oil, the agricultural sector contributes significantly to its economy. A recent National Bureau of Statistics estimate stated that 25 per cent of the GDP of the nation’s economy is largely made up of the Agriculture sector (a total value of N4.575 trillion) and 70 per cent of its labour force is employed in this sector.

These gains weren’t always so. Prior to the slump in oil prices, the decline in food production was rapid and it can be attributed to Nigeria’s over dependence on oil while largely neglecting the agricultural sector.

Owing to a number of factors including the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the price of crude oil crashed drastically. The

volatility of the market necessitated the need for the nation to diversify into other sectors of the economy especially Agriculture with the sole objective of becoming self-sufficient in food production and a major player in the food/ Agro export business.

Filling the Lacuna

Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic may have made things worse for the sector as many have bemoaned the lack of access to food and the sudden drastic hike in price of essential foodstuff like rice, yam, cassava flakes (garri), beans, fish, and meat among other things. From civil servants to traders, teachers, professionals and even the common man, the angst against the increase in the cost of food resonated.

To fill the lacuna, Titan Farms, a subsidiary of Titan Multi-business Investment Limited, is determined to feed as many Nigerians as possible with affordable and quality food.

Titan Farms according to the Founder and Chief Trader, Titan Farms, Gbenga Eyiolawi, is an agro-commodity processing and trading outfit who buy farm produce directly from farms and process them with their partner-mills and processing facilities using their High-Tech equipment in the Northern part of the country.

“These processed goods are packaged in our brand and sold directly to distributors across South-west Nigeria. Pioneer of such goods is our rice brand known as Titan Rice which is produced and packaged in the North and then sold in the South. We started recently and presently have presence in Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Kwara States.

“We do not compete with existing brands as we offer something more unique than others giving priority to our distributors and end users. Titan Rice comes in 50kg, 25kg, 10kg and five kg and we pride ourselves in the fact that our rice is stone free, clean, polished and sweet with less starch content. We are able to achieve this through diligent and extensive research and development as we have food processing specialists in our team.

“We are confident to say that Titan Rice is the most affordable “Grade A” Nigerian Rice. We also have Titan Vegetable Oil which is launching into the markets this November. It is going to be of high quality as we only produce and sell premium affordable products,” he divulged.

Investment

On how much they have invested into the farm he said:

“We have invested about half a billion naira into this project, Titan farms is an AgriTech company where we trade in agro-commodities from one part of the country to another. This business started this year and we have gained the confidence of a lot of people as partners and distributors, hence the sporadic growth and presence of our brands in the towns in which we are present.

“We buy rice paddy from farmers, process and bag them after which we sell to distributors. We do this week -in, week-out and at the end of the day, we and our partners smile when the company shares profits.”

Presence in Markets

Addressing the issue of presence in markets across the regions, he noted that “Titan farms started this year; it’s our mission to be in every part of the country. We started in the south west and as the popular saying goes ‘’charity begins at home’’.

“We have started here in the south west and we plan to reach every part of the country and even Africa at large. Presently we have distributors in Port Harcourt which is an indication of our growth and we are open to more distributors across the country. We have amazing packages for all our distributors and for every package; there is a rebate system that gives them good returns and margin. Together we win.”

Expansion Plans

On their expansion plans in the next five years he said: “We have mind blowing plans for the next five years, Titan farms will not only sell rice, we will also sell other agricultural products. Our plan is to feed as many people as possible by offering affordable quality food.

“We also have a food club where people can also order for raw food and get them delivered to their various homes if they want, these people can pay as they earn and when their money is complete they get to collect their food stuffs.

“Titan Farms will also be organising various agricultural programmes for youths to encourage them go into agriculture, grants will be given to students. We will also have processing plants for agricultural products, with these plants we can service more of our market and spread faster. We aim to have our own fully automated rice mill within the next one year.”

Assistance by Government

Touching areas he thinks the government can assist rice farmers like Titan, he noted that this can be done by breaking monopolies, adding that “most of those in rice production business in large scales before us met favourable government incentives like tax relief, provision of land and funding of machineries. For new entrants, this is a challenge as we are still looking forward to the government to open more opportunities to us.

“To be fair, the ban on importation on rice is a big boost to all of us in the industry as that is what brought most of us into the industry, I would say a big thank you to President Muhammad Buhari. In addition, there is a paddy Aggregation scheme funding opportunity by the CBN for rice processing and trading companies. So, I will say they have done super well to encourage us to push even harder. That is not to say everything is perfect.

“Our government can do better by ensuring the security agencies on the road understand the difference between Nigerian Rice and Foreign Rice and not clamp unnecessarily on innocent Nigerian Rice traders moving their merchandise from one part of the country to another, hence leading to delays in the transport of goods.

Government can also help by providing more resources to farmers so they can expand and increase their output gradually.

“There is also a need for state governments to work more on promoting the growth of rice especially in the south so we can have rice at good prices around the country, not just by going to the North.

“Some state governments in the South set up rice processing plants but the question is, where are the farms in that state supplying them paddy? Little wonder some of these plants are redundant or at best, have low production output. The way forward on this is for us to have massive rice farms across the country, in places where the land can grow rice.

“Government should also help by ensuring it is easy for Good processed foods to get export licences. Presently, it is a tough one. Even when your product is good, it is not easy. Another challenge is National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) registration. This is a major problem for most agribusiness as the process is too slow and we all know no supermarket will buy or display products that do not have NAFDAC number, neither can such products be exported.”

Social Cause through Titan Foundation

As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Eyiolawi said they also see the business as a social cause as we ensure that for every bagged rice sold out, N50 goes to Titan Foundation.

“This is used to feed children in orphanages in Oyo state (which is our resident state). This is done on a monthly basis so food never has to be the problem as we believe when a child is properly fed, the mental growth and development is assured,” he revealed.

Some of these orphanages include: Total Parental Guidance Orphanage, Oluyole Ibadan’ Tabitha Home,Ring Road,Ibadan and Little Saints Orphanage Apata, Ibadan.

“Also, we commit ourselves to building a community with good amenities and this we have started by maintaining the road in our host community (Elebu, Ibadan) without having to wait for the government. This we intend to do in selected communities in Oyo State.

“The third aspect of our social cause is the provision of borehole water for selected communities. The first water project will be done in our host community this December,” he added.

Giving further insight about the Titan Foundation, he said it was his personal way of giving back to the society. “Basically, it is in three categories: firstly, rewarding veterans in the entertainment industry: The Nigeria Film industry is globally recognised as the second largest film producer in the world. I strongly believe the veterans of this industry should be rewarded because of the hard work they have invested into making this industry one of the best in the world. These veterans have developed young talents, created jobs for people in ways, made people happy and with their educational movies solved some many problems in various homes.

“Secondly, sponsoring the less privileged: Educating the less privilege in Nigeria society is a right and not a privilege, if we fail to do so, it spells down for the society. Educating these children will make them become useful citizens who will use the education acquired to contribute meaningfully to society.

“Most of these children have been forced by their parents and guardian to engage in petty trade and most of the income will not reach them. We have also adopted some orphanages in Ibadan, as at now we have three orphanage homes that Titan farms regularly supply foodstuffs to and we will continue to ensure they never run out of food. This will in its own way help as many children because they are the leaders of tomorrow.”