Boosting Non-oil Export with FG’s Incentive

Chinedu Eze

Since the proceeds from oil started dwindling, there have been persistent calls from the federal government, urging Nigerians to go into export, but the calls were largely ignored because the only readily available export commodity in Nigeria is farm produce.

However, few answered, and one of them is the Gum Arabic Company Limited (GACON). The Group Managing Director of the company, Adaku Chidume-Okoro, revealed to THISDAY that government was taking the initiative to provide incentives to those who are exporting commodities to earn the highly sought after foreign exchange.

According to Chidume-Okoro, the Gum Arabic Company Nigeria Limited, which was incorporated in 1999, started export operations a year later as an agribusiness worldwide. With a mission tosource, process and supply best quality materials to its customers at the best possible prices, while ensuring that products offered are wholly natural.

The company’s flagship products include fresh ginger and dried split ginger, dried split turmeric, dried hibiscus flower (full flower and siftings), gum Arabic of all grades, hot chili pepper, cassia tora seeds, dried kolanuts and prosopis juliflora. The company specializes in the export of various agricultural commodities, herbs and obtanicals.

The Managing Director said over the years, GACON Ltd had developed a global customer base which includes reputable manufacturing, processing and trading companies in the United States, Britain, Germany, India, China, Russia, Bulgaria, Six Central Americans countries, France, Italy, Poland, etc.

GACON Limited which started as a small exporter and one man business, with export of one container of Gum Arabic; has grown over the years to become one of the leading Nigeria non-oil export companies.

With a staff strength of 30 senior staff, 36 middle level and junior staff as permanent staff and over 200 seasonal staff on her payroll, the company organizes regular training and retraining, skilling & up scaling, learning and adapting to new norms & programs for all cadres of her employees, to enable them perform in today’s digital international space for her sustainability and customers’ satisfaction. 

GACON has her administrative headquarters office in Lagos and Regional Operational Office located on a two-hectare piece of land in Bompai Industrial Estate, Kano, as well as an aggregating office in Kafanchan, Southern Kaduna and a satellite office in Imo State.

Speaking to THISDAY, Chidume-Okoro who marked 25 years of the company recently, explained that the company sources her produce from Kano, Kafanchan, Kebbi and loads the produce in containers and ship them overseas from the Lagos port.

“From Kano or Kafanchan, they go straight to the shipping bay, and they do their documentation. Some people don’t even know what gum arabic is. But it is a natural product that is very important. I will give you an example for Coca-Cola production, without gum arabic inside Coca-Cola manufacturing, you will have the water sediments. You will have the water separate from the color. So it is gum arabic that whitens and retains that shelf life. Your capsules is gum arabic that is the outer coatings. Your tablets that you drink, it is gum arabic that binds the powder together in tablets form. Your ice cream, without gum arabic in your ice cream, it cannot stay as ice cream. It will dismember and crystallize. So, gum arabic is indispensable.

“That was where we started. But currently, because when the Sudan war started, we had some issues because Gum Arabic was also coming from Sudan and Chad. But with the onset of Boko Haram and the likes, we had to diversify into other products. So we now had to start doing dry skin ginger, which is also a major percentage of our export shipments. We do fresh ginger also, we do hibiscus flower. Hibiscus flower is the Zobo you know. If I tell you that some companies are shipping 300, 400 containers of hibiscus  to a particular country of the world annually. You will be wondering, ordinary hibiscus flower. But those Nigerian exports earners know. In the year 2010, based on our consistency, the drive and passion with which we are handling the non-oil export business, I was recognized by the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Nigeria’s number one woman exporter. And ever since, there has not been any other recognition. So GACON still flies that flag as the number one exporter. GACON is proudly led by a woman most of our staff are women.

“It may also interest you to know that our team lead operations, the people that control the factory, the processing, the plants are women. Our operations manager is a Northern lady, from Kano. So that will tell you what we are doing, what we are trying to do. In terms of technology, I am sure you have been wondering, we are in an international business, playing in the international market. So we constantly and consistently keep up scaling and upskilling our workforce. We don’t take digitalization with levity, we don’t play with it. So it will also interest you to note that recently whatever our customers are doing abroad, we try to mirror it here because if we don’t mirror it, we will not be able to service them. If we are shipping, say, 60 containers of goods to a particular customer, and they have all their data in their system, and we are not able to mirror that, you will agree with me that they won’t talk to us. So we have gun out of our way also to make sure that in terms of technology, we are equipping our workforce, we are getting needed machines, machinery, technology on ground to ensure that our workforce can compete with their peers on the global stage,” she said.

On the incentive her company gets from the Federal Government, she said: “All our export proceeds are tax exempt. We don’t pay company tax, but we pay education tax. So that is one of the incentives. Secondly, there is export expansion grant, whereby the government pays us a certain percentage of our annual turnover as incentive, gives it back to us to encourage us to invest more in the sector and then do more business and do more exports. Because the more we export, the healthier our economy is in terms of balance of trade.”

Speaking more on how government is encouraging farming and export of agriproduce, the Managing Director of GACON explained that the real challenge is not really government but the unwillingness of young people to go to the farm.

“I think our leaders are trying. The challenge is with us. The young people don’t want to go into farming. They are more interested in negative and positive IT. You know what I mean?Agric means the value chain. You can be a farmer, you can be an aggregator, you can take up the logistics chain, you can also be a processor or exporters like us. It is a very stable form of business. It is a business that even God himself started. So agriculture is not easily going to be replaced. And nobody can survive without food,” she further said.

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