Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of F.A Feedmills and Farms, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Chief Fatai Adebayo Soewu, has warned of looming starvation, as he considers federal and state governments’ investment in the agricultural sector grossly inadequate.
Soewu, in a chat with THISDAY, particularly observed that the increasing cost of consumer goods “is a spill-over effect of inadequate concentration on agriculture, in the face of increasing population.”
“And once this happens, you don’t need any prophet to tell you that starvation looms, except proactive steps are taken,” he appraised.
He stressed that that it was imperative that this critical sector is properly funded, because of its capacity to help reduce the problem of unemployment and boost food production in the country.
Soewu also encouraged the youths to embrace agriculture, saying that it is one of the lucrative sectors of the economy that could be explored to reduce the problem of unemployment bedeviling the country.
The renowned farmer who also sits aboard Aquabash Table Water Company, said the country could leverage on the abundant opportunities in the agriculture sector to boost food production and reduce unemployment.
Recalling his humble beginning as a farmer, Soewu said he had started as a supplier of raw materials such as maize, sorghum, groundnut cakes, soya beans meal, fish meal, bone meal, oyster shells, among others, for the production of poultry feeds to the farmers within Ijebuland and Ogun State at large.
He added that due to the growth of the business, he decided to set up a feed mill in 1998, and was buoyed further as he also set up a farm with particular interests in poultry, piggery and fishery.
Soewu said the farm which took off with 18 workers in 1998 now has nothing no fewer than 300 workers eking out a living from the farm, while also contributing their quota to the economic growth and the development of the country.
He further explained that, though he diversified into other businesses such as oil and gas as well as production of bottled water, but noted that setting up of all these businesses were made possible and wholly financed from proceeds and profits generated from his agricultural enterprise.
He said in spite of graduating with a Upper Credit in Accountancy from The Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun State, which would have availed him an opportunity of being a professional in the accounting field, he identified with farmers and grabbed the opportunity in the agricultural sector and today, he could be counted among the employers of labour in Nigeria.
Soewu disclosed further that he decided to share his personal story and experience to encourage unemployed youths in Nigeria, urging them to embrace agriculture; not only to boost food production but also to reduce unemployment and the poverty rate in Nigeria.
He said this is why any government willing to reduce unemployment, eradicate poverty and also willing to boost food production can’t do without creating an enabling environment and giving enormous supports to the farmers.
Soewu said these supports could be in form of provision of no interest loans, allocation of lands for poultry and fishery, provision of tractors either for free or at subsidised price for cultivation of lands; provision of improved seedlings, good access roads, among others, to encourage the youths to take to agriculture.
”It’s so sad that with our good weather conditions and fertile land, we have not been able to produce enough for ourselves, not to talk of exporting to other countries to generate good foreign exchange and boost our economy,” he lamented.
Soewu also said, “We still spend billions of naira on importation of rice, soya meal, and groundnut cake. Even as we speak, there is an acute shortage of maize, soya meal and groundnut cake, being the major raw materials for the poultry farmers.
“Rather than looting the treasury, our leaders should channel those funds to develop the agriculture sector. We have all it takes to feed the world,” Feedmills chief said.