Dr. Soboyejo Olamideji Adebayo, a veterinary doctor, is Chief Operating Officer, Jocal Breeder Farms. In this interview with FREDERICK ADEGBOYE, he speaks on the quality of investments needed to turn the economy away from overdependence on oil, among other issues. Excerpts:
WITH the current crisis in the oil sector, attention has shifted naturally to agriculture sector to guarantee the country’s economic survival and food security. What quality of investments is needed in this sector to help realise their potential to contribute to the continued growth of the economy?
Industrialisation of the agriculture sector can guarantee this for us. And to be able to industrialise agriculture, two basic infrastructure the government needs to invest in is electricity, transport and IT. These three sectors will create an enabling environment and drive to entice foreign investors into the sector.
What would you call the incentive for the average young Nigerian to go into agriculture?
Agriculture is a tough job and also a good paying job. But the major incentive is the job creation, financial security and food security.
What’s the most pressing issue in food supply and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
I will like to see Nigeria get to the point where we are net exporter of refined and value added agriculture products to the rest of the world. At this point, I’m sure the nation would have been able to feed itself comfortably.
What’s your advice for President Buhari and the lawmakers on food and agriculture?
Keep up the drive for economic diversification, and, above all, create the enabling environment in electricity and transportation infrastructure to drive in more foreign direct investment in the sector.
Would you agree that the poultry industry isn’t as much fun to work in as it had been?
Yes, I will agree to this, and this is because of the multitudes facing livestock farmers daily, the low per capita consumption of poultry product, diseases, inflation in cost of raw materials and power generation. All of these make the profit margin in the industry non attractive compare to what it has been in time past. Coupled with its huge capital intensiveness and the lower and lower margin, the business is getting tougher by the day. The panacea to these challenges demands players in the industry to be more strategic, economical and technical to be able to manage the indices that affect the up and down trends of the business, the industry goes beyond being scientific, strong entrepreneurship and management skill can still guarantee success in the industry.
What particular challenges do Nigerian farmers face who seek alternatives to intensive production systems?
The major challenge facing intensive production systems majorly is power. For instance, I have 35 closed houses that can take 7,000 breeders each in a land area of over five million square metres.
Powering this kind of farm community is a big task in Nigeria where power supply is epileptic. I had to power my farm most times with heavy duty generators which are expensive to maintain, couple with the fact that diesel supply is of bad quality and also expensive. This majorly bore a deep hole in our pocket yearly as a company. Other challenges which cut across all players in the industry is majorly increasing cost of feeding which is about 70% cost of production, thus subsequently increasing overall cost of production. In 2014, a bag of new maize went for 4000-5000 but now it is between 8000 and 10, 000. This is about 100% increase, whereas cost of a crate of egg never got 100%increase in price between 2014 and 2017. All this is making the poultry industry unattractive. Unfortunately, it’s a kind of business that is difficult to liquidate and cash out, so most farmers invariably keep licking their wounds while praying for better days again.
You have worked across the industry for over a decade, what have been your biggest achievements?
Over the years I have been an aggressive learner, and have developed to be more formidable and versatile. And my biggest achievement has been my ability to be able to proffer business solutions none like other in the poultry industry. My business management style has focused on cost management, efficient utilisation of resources and scientific approach. As seen in my current workplace where I was able to transform the farm operation in eight months, cutting across business management, productions, operations, and making the business stronger than it ever was.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
Food security in Nigeria is still very poor, looking at what our population is and the growth rate. Thus the biggest opportunity is to be able to feed ourselves, and that’s why I applaud President Buhari’s drive for economic diversification and food security. And I think it’s a move every old and young of this country has to participate in. Not just in farm, but also in industries to be able to expand the value chain further, and engage more citizens of the country.
Share some success stories and your involvement with private individuals/organisations or the federal government.
Our business, Jocarl Breeder Farm, was established to bridge the supply gap the Nigerian poultry industry was facing, and also the urgent need for the country to improve its food security, and that was why a heavy investment was made to establish a state-of-the art poultry farm with latest technology in poultry breeding. It was a challenging feat due to the fact that the sector is faced with lots of challenges varying from feedstuff supplies, inflation, forex liquidity, power and insufficient know-how. But we were able to surmount it all, by working round the clock, and also keeping our eyes on the vision and mission for which we were established in the first place. Gradually, things started falling in place and we are proud to be one of the biggest producers in the industry. With our recent improvements, we have been able to expand and partner with private organisations in the value chains and also indirectly supporting the federal government’s move for economic diversification.
What are your major challenges?
Challenges are a constant factor in any production sector. Challenges become greater when your dreams and visions are big and when you never intend to settle for less. Our challenge, majorly like every other big player in this sector, is the availability of quality feedstuff.
Unlike our counterparts in the western world, who have been able to industrialise each of the value chain, and there are regulations in place, which are totally lacking here, and because of that nobody really cares or regulate the quality of raw materials that come in for feed production which takes about 70% in your operation cost.
Furthermore, the issue of smuggling of frozen chicken and eggs into the country is paralysing the industry, thus making it harder for farmers to compete and breakeven. All these still boil down to proper regulation and policies.
For a farm like ours that depends on 24/7 electricity, power generation is also a big task especially when the cost of diesel is very expensive. The challenges are quite enormous nowadays than it used to be in the industry, and that’s why farmers are closing down daily.
What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Well, I was born into it. I have started raising livestock from the age of 10, ever before I dreamt of being a veterinarian. It all started from the old sci-fi movie “Doctor Who”, which I became a fan of at a tender age. So I had always wanted to be a doctor, though wasn’t sure of what type of doctor I wanted to be. So, as I grew older, coupled with my love for animals which I cater so much to and care about, I determined to be a veterinarian.
What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
The passion got me going strong in this job. I love what I do, and have so much passion for it. This has made me develop myself, honed my skills in my core discipline, and others such as business management by earning a master’s degree in Business Administration, Accounting and Engineering to make me as versatile as possible to be able to proffer prompt solutions which are cost effective to situations and the challenges I face every day in operating a mega farm.