Mr. Seun Adegoke is the Managing Director of SGL Farms, a company that cultivates 5,000 acres of rice. He tells Bennett Oghifo that it will make economic sense for the federal government to do all that is necessary to reduce the cost of rice production, rather than engage in unsustainable border-closure policy
The federal government has been talking about boosting local production of rice, while shielding growers from foreign competition. What else can be done?
There is a lot that the government can do. The government has to be consistent with policies. This is very important. Then, of course, there is need for more investment in agricultural research. For instance, in some nations, it is possible to attain 12 to 14 tonnes of rice per hectare. Here we attain about 4 tonnes on research fields. Unfortunately, most of us as farmers cannot invest in research. It has to be the government coming in to help. It is important that government shoulders research because of the long term goal of benefitting the people. There also has to be some sort of subsidies available for farmers. For us, the subsidy can come in the form of machinery. It is important to have installmental payment packages available. It would make farm financing easier if the schedule of payment is convenient.
What is your opinion about border closure and its impact on rice production?
Quite a number of people have been asking about this. Policy consistency is important. Inconsistency will give investors shocks. No matter how much you try, if the market is flooded and you can’t sell your products, everybody will have headache.
Policy consistency is most important. Even when government shuts the borders, there was still smuggling. Actually, I don’t personally believe in border closure. I believe that market forces should dictate. If we produce more at less cost, we will counter the low cost of foreign rice. The problem is that cost of production is very high in this country. If local rice is affordable and are good in quality, foreign rice will disappear to oblivion. If we have eyes on a philosophy of stimulating increased local production through less stress in production, we would be better for it. Instead of the unsustainable policy of closing the borders, we should aim at getting rice to be produced at cheaper rates. Research would also help boost returns relative to investment. Thus, increased production or supply will force prices to drop. This goes across board for everybody. This is the way I see it, makes economic sense. In speeding achievement of the national objective of food self-sufficiency, and going forward, food independence, the country really has to support the farmer.
Besides the required intervention from the government, do you have any corporate social responsibility plans?
Right now, we are committed to breeding new generations of rice farmers. We are setting up a boot camp. Young minds can live with us on the farm, where we all live for three to four months. They’ll understand the dynamics of rice production. The practical aspect is different from what you read in books. We want to encourage people. We are looking to having about 1,000 people with us on the farm. We are commencing this in January 2021. We’ll train them; we try to reach out to organisations that can support them. The more we have these kinds of people taking to rice cultivation, the better for the country.
Tell us about SGL Farms
We have farmlands in Anigbado – Yelwa North Local Government, Ogun State. We also have at Wasimi. Currently we have operations going on at Anigbado farm. The current capacity is 5,000 acres. We are working towards expanding this acreage. We’ve have done majority of the land clearing. Right now, we are at the stage of land preparation and nursery establishment. In the next couple of weeks, we should be transplanting.
What are your challenges?
So far, so good, we have a few operational challenges which are normal in farming but we are on course. So far, we have not had any but we have structures in place.
What do you want from your investors?
We appreciate the confidence they repose in us. We appreciate their sustained support and encouragement. By God’s grace, we shall keep meeting our obligations to them.
What is your current employment strength?
We have about 400 people in our employ. Most are farm labourers. We have 17 supervisors and support teams attending to welfare, health, security, etc.
How do you sustain this large number?
We are putting in our best. Our pay is competitive relative to the sector. I believe we have been fair. We pay more than the average labour rate. Many of the workers live on the farm. We have a suitable accommodation for them. We take care of their health and do other necessary things.
What are your projections?
We hope to increase production by more folds to the point where we can contribute reasonably to rice availability for consumption in Nigeria.