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Kwara and the Agric Revolution by bisolaoni: 10:29am On Aug 04, 2010
By Hammed Shittu
August 3, 2010
Source: ThisDay

Hammed Shittu in this report captures  efforts  being made by the Kwara State Government to improve agriculture,   so that apart from making food  sufficiently available for the people  of the state, it could reduce the continued dependence on petro-dollar as the main source  of revenue.

Since assumption of office in year 2003, the incumbent governor of Kwara state, Dr. Bukola Saraki has taken agriculture development as one of the major thrust of his administration. In his pursuit of this laudable objective, the governor has put agriculture in the front burner in such a way that it would reduce the continued dependence of the government on petro-dollar as the main source of revenue.

It is on this premise that the government engaged the services of expertise on agriculture development from the Zimbabwe through the Public Private Partnership Initiative in order to bring into focus the real practice of  modern agriculture
Today, the state government in collaboration with the Zimbabwean farmers under the commercial farming project has commenced series of agriculture practice at Shonga, in Edu local government council area of the state. The farmers planted maize, rearing animals, chickens among others.

But, Shonga Holdings, a conglomerate of commercial farms,  added another feather to its  operations  with the commencement of processed chicken at Shonga Farms,
A visit of some newsmen to the site recently  at Shonga revealed that the situation at the Shonga Farms has improved seriously as the available equipment, the environment  and the technical know how are second to none,  comparable to any other high tech chickens processing factory in the sub Sahara west Africa.

The farms’ poultry section now has chickens processing factory even as the factory is set to produce, a minimum of 7,500 processed chickens meant for the consumption of Ilorin residents, Kwara state at large and for residents in other parts of the country.
The  leader and head of operation of the factory  Mr. Piet Dutoit, told journalists   that the plant was currently on 2,500 processed frozen chickens per day, pointing out that when it becomes fully operational, it  has capacity to step –up to 10,000 chickens per day.

Dr. Bukola Saraki being shown the production line

Workers in the chicken processing plant

Part of the production line

He said the farm has so far engaged the services of 42 workers who were all natives of the host community, adding that more hands would still be required as the farm expanded.
While expressing optimism on market for the factory’s product   Detoit assured that the immediate local market would be adequately catered for as well as the immediate environment and all those who have shown interest in its products.

The head of the farm however disclosed that commercial partners from the south-east and south-south geo-political zones of the country had already signified interest in doing business with the farm as distributors, stating that the international market has been placed on the waiting list in other to satisfied the local market first. 
Also speaking in an interview with pressmen, the General Manager of the plant,
Morne Vandernerwe speaking  on the target consumers of the processed chickens  emphasized that “the products of the plant is not meant for export. A lot of legislation is attached to exportation. The internal demand in the country has been very phenomenal.

Therefore, the local market is our target audience. We will focus on Ilorin and the whole of Kwara state before we think about other states. Though, we cannot totally ignore exportation but that will be in some years to come.” 
Morne Vandernerwe,  however,  noted that it has not been all bed of roses as the company just like any fledgling firm reeks under the heavy hammer of some seemingly insurmountable challenges. 

According to him, “unfortunately, money is my major challenge. We need operating capital that include couple of millions of Naira I need packaging materials. They are not available locally. The first batch of 20,000 birds is in the region of N2.2million. Everything here costs money’’. 
“The other thing is manpower training. You don’t expect local employees to take on the speed of the big processing chicken factory overnight. They have to be taught, shown and physically trained before they can do the job right.”

He said already, the poultry plant slaughtered recently about 2500 birds, stressing that “for the time being we have got four partners in the project. Each also has one fully operational chicken house, each house also has the capacity to house 25,000 chickens. Three chicken houses per farm is our target. The equipment for those houses have been shipped into the country. Ultimately, we hope to have 400,000 birds in the four farms.”

The poultry farmer said that his target in the “first phase is the production of 2500 chickens per day, afterwards I want to increase the capacity to 5000 then to 7,500 the capacity that the current plant has got. After which we will increase the cooling of the plant and then increase production to 10,000 daily.”
He said that his target market for now is Ilorin , environs and the state in general, adding that “we have got marketing assistance based in Ilorin .”

In his words: “We have signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with some promo food in northern, south-south and south-west regions of Nigeria . Obviously, this is a new enterprise but a lot of people still want to come to the table. We will be having a self-distribution of the products.
“Unfortunately, our buyers are predominantly people demanding to but either one or two kilos, but we are out to sell at whole rate. Incidentally, the various states chambers of industry, mines and agriculture in the country have shown massive interest in our products. They want to sign MoU with for distribution with us. Soprite and KFC foods want to do business with us. For us that is good news because that is a big money.

“Even the state chairman of fast food and catering association of Nigeria has disclosed the association’s willingness to partner with us. When we become up and kicking we will also join the poultry association of Nigeria .”
  However, during the recent tour of Governor Saraki to the farms recently,  he expressed satisfaction with what the processing factory had been able to achieve within the short period of commencement of production.

The governor commended the operators for using modern and latest technology, and described the development as a practical demonstration of using agriculture and agro-allied to drive the economy.
According to him, “with the success story of Shonga farm and the dairy factory as well as the coming on board of the new chicken processing factory, am very optimistic that agriculture was capable of diversifying the economy, thereby reducing the country’s over dependency on oil. This is a proof that it can be done and a challenge to other parts of the country,” the governor said and also enjoined “other states of the federation to emulate state in its drive towards agriculture.”

He also said that there would be  multiplier effect of the poultry farm on the economy, as the  processed chickens from the farm would be supplied to household, retail shops, and super market in Ilorin and to the outside world for consumption .

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