According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), agriculture’s important role is one of production, both of food for the rural and the urban population and of cash crops for the export market, to earn foreign currency. In this process, demand is stimulated for other products and services, and employment opportunities emerge to absorb the society’s workforce.
It is, therefore, more compelling in this period of uncertainties caused by insecurity, COVID-19 pandemic and government policies to engage in deliberate and consistent investments in agriculture. Oluwatobi Oladapo Ojo is a young energetic agric entrepreneur. He is the Managing Director and founder, Mac Starline Integrated Services, an agric investment company based in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, southwest Nigeria. He spoke to Oludare Sorunke, Executive Editor, BLACKWASH recently.
Tell us briefly about your company. Most young people who venture into entrepreneurship would prefer FINTECH, trading, logistics or other businesses, why did you choose agriculture?xx
Mac Starline Integrated Services helps people make smart-agricultural financial investment decisions that generate high revenue through sustainable agricultural practices. Our clients come to us when they have hit the rock bottom and are frustrated by the lack of consistent-quality output on their farmlands. Some don’t know the right agricultural investments to get maximum returns.
Agriculture to us is more than another trending venture that yields reasonable returns on investment. Agriculture to us is a calling. It is more than a means of making a living.
Where is your company positioned in the agriculture value chain?
The universe of investments can be split into three segments – upstream, midstream and downstream. These segments can best explain the agriculture value chain. Mac Starline Integrated Services is strategically positioned in the upstream segment of the agriculture value chain.
Why should people invest in your company?
At Mac Starline Integrated Services, our success lies in the success of our clients. This is the mindset we have cultivated over the years. This mindset of transparency towards our clients is convincing enough to know we can only climb up the ladder of successful investment ventures. This motivates us to give our best and in return, earns us integrity and brings more customers.
What investment options do you have?
We have two investment options;
1. Short-term investments. This has to do with agricultural production with short cycles. We have been doing various kinds of fruits and vegetables under this option over the years but it is not available at the moment. So, right now our Return On Investment-ROI in the short-term option is directed towards the establishment of farms for our clients. The only offer opened right now under this option is Dwarf Hybrid Pawpaw which starts producing after six months for the next 5 years.
- Long-term investments. As it simply implies, this has to do with agricultural production with long cycles. Our Return On Investments -ROI in the long term option has to do with the cultivation of cash crops. There are various offers under this but I will speak of basically two crops here which are Pineapple and Oil Palm respectively. The species of pineapple we cultivate starts producing by the 15th month.
Agriculture business/investment is very different from conventional investments like Bonds, shares, mutual funds and other derivatives where the returns on investments are determined from the beginning. What yardsticks do you use to calculate returns on investments for your agric investments?
When a country experiences recession, people will struggle to feed themselves. Population growth, especially in urban areas, and improved incomes of the middle class have made the increasing demand for food more compelling. We can therefore say that the ROI in agric business is huge. The profitability of an agric investment is determined by the expenses on inputs and market price.
Nigeria has one of the most arable lands in the world, yet it is an import-dependent, consumer-centered country. Why is this so?
I will give three reasons for this;
Violence / Insecurity
Due to desertification and water depletion in the Sahel region, especially in the northern part of Nigeria, nomadic herdsmen are now migrating towards the south in search of grazing fields and water for their animals. This has resulted in farmers-herders clashes, consequently a sharp decline in food production.
Shortage of farm inputs
Very low yields per hectare due to shortages in the supply of inputs such as quality seedlings and fertilisers as well as inadequate irrigation and harvesting systems have in recent years become a major challenge for agric productivity.
Lack of access to finance
Although the Nigerian government has provided several facilities through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) such as the Anchor Borrower’s Programme to help provide small-scale farmers with adequate financing, the agric industry still lacks adequate access to funds.
Where are your farms situated and how many farm projects do you have presently?
Our farms are majorly situated in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria. Presently, we have over 6 farm projects.
How do you source for farm inputs?
We source farm inputs from Nigeria and abroad. There are few companies that are competent enough to give us the required input to give us our desired quality output because the integrity of our company hinges on our capacity to achieve the desired results.
Are you engaged in agro-processing? How do you minimise waste on the farm?
Agro-processing is one of our services. We will launch this service very soon.
Can you say that you have positioned your company for the next 5 years?
We are driven by our core value to incorporate initiatives through the vast knowledge and experience acquired to become a leading national player in commercial agriculture. Without a doubt, our company is well-positioned for the next 5 years and beyond.
In what ways do you think governments at all levels can intervene in agriculture?
The government should put more effort to educate agropreneurs to adopt advanced mechanised systems to improve the quality of agricultural products. With a population of about 200 million people, Nigeria’s agricultural productivity is insufficient to meet the demand for food. The government also needs to make more agricultural loans and funds available to encourage optimum output and expansion.