‘How agriculture will boost Nigeria’s economy’
Rishabh Puri is an Indian entrepreneur, author and Executive Director, Global Sterling Products Limited, a company, which has been doing business in the country for 35 years now. He sheds more light on the need to diversify Nigeria’s economy from oil, as well as improving agricultural processing with machine, fruit and natural resources, which it is blessed with. Gregory Austin Nwakunor writes.
Tell us about yourself and your company Global Sterling Products Limited?
I’M the executive director, Global Sterling Products Limited. I was born in India and raised in Nigeria. I attended an Indian school, before moving to a British school. I have a degree in business administration from the United Kingdom through distance learning. I also have a master’s degree in business administration (international trade) from UK via distance learning, as well. Frankly, getting into business was never on the agenda. I did not have an engineering background, but the influence of my father made me explore a different side, which I wasn’t aware of. And I haven’t looked back ever since.
At Global Sterling Products Limited, we are into setting up industrial turnkey projects related to food and beverages and water treatment plants for industrial, residential and domestic use. We also have turnkey projects for agro-based industries, cosmetics, among others, from small, medium to large scale based on our clients’ requirements. This, we have been doing for 35 years.
We introduced a product called GSP Drink Pure with various models to suit our clients’ budget, as water is the key to human needs and survival. It is doing pretty well in residential and commercial areas, offices and hospitals. It is suitable for all sources, be it tap water, municipal or borehole. It is 100 per cent chemical-free water purification. Its filtration system ensures the balance intake of useful minerals essential for the human body. It solves problem of harnessing and high iron in water, converts acidic nature of water to alkaline, which is highly recommended for the human body. GSP Drink Pure controls water-borne disease such as jaundice, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, and indigestion, among others. It makes bottle water quality right at home.
It is durable, requires less maintenance and removes the primary headache of carrying the 20-litre heavy refills for frequent refilling. We are trying to save cost of water among those who can’t afford good hygienic water and then they end up in hospitals due to major health issues.More importantly, it is a sure way of receiving the pure form of water instantly. Among its benefits include, 100 per cent chemical free water purification, turning hard water on high Total Dissolved Solution (TDS) into soft and sweet water, making bottle water quality at home and it is easy to install without any troubles.
Talking about agricultural development in Nigeria, what would you say can be done to improve its quantity and quality?
Nigeria’s economy is currently on the upward move. The positive movement of this sector has cemented the importance of agro business, that is, food and beverage industries in Nigeria.
Everyone in the country, from the president to the man in the street, is talking about diversifying the economy from the oil-dominated mono economy to agriculture/food production focused-economy. From this, you can see the importance of agro business for the future of the Nigerian economy, and anticipate that there would be plenty of such opportunities in the nation.
There is no doubt that agriculture is vital for the sustainability of most countries, as it supports the basic need of a consumer, provided it is placed in the right direction. Despite that, I can’t help but feel that we are making some fundamental mistakes when going into agro business.
Currently, no less than five ministries or institutions work on rural development in Nigeria. The ministry of agriculture and the various research institutes work on livestock, crops and forestry development project. Adequate rural development will bring an end to urban migration because basic amenities will be attracted to service the farms. More jobs will be available in the rural areas and the inhabitants will be happy.
Our priority should be to preserve and store what has been grown and harvested to last till the next harvest season. We should commission research into food preservation and storage that will suit our type of food and environment.
Before the creation of state in Nigeria, marketing boards were used in the three regions to organize the sale of our cash crops. After the creation of states, commodity boards were formed to deal with specific crops that were produced in various states. These commodity boards assisted to market the crops by reducing the overhead and operating costs so that the farmers could get higher prices for their commodities. This encouraged the farmers to grow more of particular crop or produce more of the livestock.
In Nigeria, the use of the larger machinery and tractors should be encouraged through co-operative farming and definite steps should be taken to fabricate simple farm implement. The implements are for different operations such as soil preparation, seed planting, incubators for seedlings, organic manuring, ploughing, harvesters and machines for processing of the harvested crops. It will reduce drug use (self-medications) and the problem of using cutlasses and hoes. But if the government should assist in subsidizing the machinery cost, it would encourage the people to venture into business.
The government should promote literacy through adult education for illiterate farmers so as to facilitate the process of information communication on modern farming techniques, farm subsidies and incentives by the government. They should also be informed as to where and when they will get the subsidies.
Over 60 per cent of seeds planted by farmers are unimproved. Without that, we have minimal scope of increasing manufacturing and export; hence granting export incentives to the manufacturers who tend to export. More emphasis should be placed on the development of high yielding varieties of crops suitable for each ecological zone and system of cultivation. To avoid large drain of foreign exchange resulting in importation of fertilizers, fruits and foods, we must manufacture and process farm produce in Nigeria.
In conclusion, agri-business in Nigeria involves hard work and planning. Nigeria is blessed with wonderful soil, fruits and vegetables, which we can all be used to satisfy the local consumption of its citizens, without importation.
What steps do you think the government can take to encourage entrepreneurship and investments?
The government can assist by setting up special local banks whose job is to extend credit facilities to the budding entrepreneurs. The Federal Government established the agricultural co-operative/food and beverage industries and credit bank to serve this purpose. If it were appropriately managed, this bank would be an asset to like-minded businesses. Groups of businessmen/businesswomen can form co-operative ventures, which will facilitate the granting of loans and subsidies to them. Effective tax relief should be granted them to encourage accumulation of capital for further investments in meaningful ventures to boost the Nigerian economy.
Land should be allocated for farming. Perhaps, as the West does, allocate an industrial area, where budding/established companies can come under one location for the purpose of industrial development. Farmers should be encouraged to combine and form large farms. This will encourage and make possible the use of mechanized farming techniques.
What is your advice for Nigerian youths who want to become entrepreneurs/investors?
When I see Nigerian youth entrepreneurs with their ideas, beliefs and hope for the future, I am so amazed because that’s what economy needs to develop. It’s the people’s belief in the future; some say there is no Africa and there is no infrastructure; but I strongly disagree. What we need is not total infrastructure but also people’s belief for the future. Real entrepreneurs do not wait for infrastructure but build infrastructure. That’s why in the next 20 to 30 years, I envisage Nigeria to be one of the economy-driving nations in the world.Believe in your ideas, no idea is too big or little. The moment you have faith in an idea, there is nothing stopping you from reaching the heights you imagined.
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