Government must evolve friendly policies to support production, says Oluleye
Oluomo Oluwole Oluleye, an indigene of Efon Alaye, Efon Local Council, Ekiti Central Senatorial District, Ekiti State and a livestock farmer, is the Chairman, Daytin Ventures Limited Efon-Alaaye. He delved into the industry after a fulfilled career, which spanned over 33 years, from the National Productivity Centre, to the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), as the Pioneer Executive Secretary and to being Executive Secretary Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), amongst other national assignments. He spoke to select Journalists on the challenges facing the Poultry industry, how his farm had impacted his community and what government needs to do to assist the sector. GBENGA AKINFENWA was there.
How did you venture into agriculture?
I have always loved anything that has to do with animals and their upkeep. My grandparents were farmers. My maternal grandmother Esther had some free-range birds, which I always had their fertilised egg for breakfast. My father wanted me to study law, whereas my interest was in agriculture and specifically Animal Husbandry. I loved the practical aspect of caring for the animals. I was admitted into Moor Plantation Ibadan to study Animal Health but travelled in 1976 for my undergraduate degree in Animal and Poultry Science at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. I later went to Auburn University for a Masters and eventually Doctorate degrees in Poultry Science.
However, providence took me away from my natural calling in the various positions I have held. But back home now in Efon Alaaye, Ekiti State, I have a poultry farm, which I actually started when I was in active service.
Considering the risk involved in operating the poultry industry, why didn’t you go into other industry?
I went into the industry because it is a natural domain for me. Having studied Poultry Science up to Ph.D level, not by compulsion, but by free will, it then follows that a childhood dream naturally will have to be fulfilled. As a growing child, I had options, but my choice of Livestock farming superseded them all. Yes, I would have gone into other lines of businesses as a quick fix, but I tell you, I would not be as fulfilled as doing the things I love.
How long have you been in the livestock business and why the choice of Efon Alaaye as location?
Commercially, I have been in the business for about 10 years, before I retired from the Civil Service. The civil service law permits one to go into things like farming while in service. As a technocrat, I did not lose sight of the rainy day. Challenging as the beginning was, we were able to weather the storm because of one’s deep love and interest in the profession. I saw beyond the initial take off challenges. I saw an economy that will be sooner than later be propelled by agriculture generally and I chose to take a position where the future of diversification is.
First and foremost, Efon Alaaye is my hometown and the need to boost the town’s economy has always been paramount in my mind.
Secondly, Poultry farming has been my retirement plan, as it will keep me mentally busy and professionally challenged. Thirdly and luckily too, the town is blessed with a cool climate which makes higher yield possible in poultry. All these combined, made the choice of my town natural.
How much did you invest to start the business?
Back then, we paid N3 million for the purchase of the land, built a house and stocked 10,000-day-old chicks. It is primarily an egg farm, nothing sophisticated about the housing. So, I will say we started in a small and affordable way. We were aware of the risks attached to starting big, so we chose to grow geometrically.
What is the worth of the business now?
If I need to put value on the assets, products and turnover, the business is worth about N180 million now. We are still growing. The opportunities are wide. I believe in agriculture as the quickest way to get our economy back in shape. When we have sufficient food for both local consumption and exports, then we will be counted amongst the producing countries and not the consuming countries. Take America for example, an average farmer is comfortable and can afford all the basic good things of life. We can also get there, if we set our priorities right.
What is your staff strength now?
Our regular staff complement is 28, with my wife as the Chief Operating Officer and myself the Chairman of the board. She, being an accountant, handles the finances to ensure profitability and I handle the technical aspect of the farm.
By extension, the business has been able to provide income for over 400 Efon Alaaye and Ekiti State indigenes, in terms of sales of outputs and proceeds from the farm. The beauty of livestock farming is that you have other ancillary and support businesses that will naturally spring up; like the various supply chains of ingredients for poultry feeds, medications and the actual sales of the products.
What have been your challenges in the business, and what have you learned from them?
Let me, for emphasis; repeat that the business has a huge growth potential. However, it has not been a smooth sail. Currently, the challenge has been non-availability of grains; a major component of Poultry feeds. Maize is sold at a premium now because it is scarce. The local production of maize cannot sustain our daily needs. We, most of the time, travel as far as Funtua to source maize for our poultry needs.
We have been encouraging local farmers here to plant maize with an assurance that we will buy it from them during harvest period. Some of our local farmers have benefitted and are still benefiting from this, but we still need more people to go into maize farming. For instance, we require about five tons of maize in two days to feed our birds and we can only source about a ton locally. For the animal industry to develop, grains production must be at the top of the agenda.
Government must also evolve a friendly policy that will support and encourage patronage of poultry products. I recall that when a past administration in Ekiti State started a policy of an egg a day for students, we expanded production and employed more hands. That policy provided the students with good health in terms of protein availability. Additional buildings were constructed within the farm to accommodate more birds. Vaccines and medication sales increased and there was boom in other related businesses. This had a spiral effect on the economy of the state. However, as government changed, the policy was stopped and all the gains reversed.
From the aforementioned, two lessons are learnt. One, continuous grains productions must be encouraged. Two, there must be consistency in government policy to encourage investment in the sector.
What is your best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs?
Little drops of water, they say, make an ocean. You don’t go into murky waters with your two feet inside at the same time. As a young entrepreneur you must always err on the side of caution. Start small and learn from other people’s mistakes. The world belongs to risk takers, though, but you must take calculated risks by being grounded in the vocation you want to go into. A deep knowledge of your area of interest goes a long way in building the foundation for success. Do not go into any business just because you think it is lucrative or your friend is making money from the venture. Your natural interest comes first. The love for the business will see you through at challenging moments. Trust me on this.
What has been your most satisfying moment in the livestock business?
Basically, my most satisfying moments are occasions when quality meat and poultry products are packed and sold to people within my immediate and remote community. I feel satisfied that I have been able to give value and help in my own little way to provide jobs and support good nutrition. Nothing, for me, is more satisfying than putting smiles on the faces of people.
Are you proud of what you have accomplished so far?
I guess this relates to my accomplishment both in public service, business and private life. As a public servant and technocrat, I have a fulfilled career. A career than spanned over 33 years, starting from the National Productivity Centre, to the PPPRA as the Pioneer Executive Secretary and to being Executive Secretary PTDF, amongst other national assignments. God has always been my guide and guard throughout my path to the top. He has been sending the right people my way, at the right time. Such positions have also afforded me the opportunity to learn how to manage men and resources.
In Livestock farming, I am very proud of my accomplishment in that I have impacted my community positively in terms of employment and income generation to the youth willing to work. Grains production in the community has also increased leading to increased income to the community.
My family life has been wonderful. I am most accomplished here because I have a supporting wife and obedient children. Extended members of my family have also been blessings to me. I thank God for his various blessings.
If you were to formulate policies on agriculture and livestock industry in Nigeria, what are the priorities you will have on board?
Let me first acknowledge the efforts of the present administration in its attempt to drive the economy through alternative sources beyond petrol. Agriculture is one of such key sectors, so efforts must be sustained in that direction. The Minister of Agriculture, in words and deeds have demonstrated the will to make agriculture the engine room of the Nigerian economy. I can only support government’s resolve to encourage grains production on a massive scale and increase yield far in excess of human and animal consumption. The excess productions are then stored in silos that have been built across the country to take care of short falls during non-planting seasons.
Agriculture has several strings of businesses. When yield increases, production of other derivatives are boosted.
However, one would expect government to evolve a subsidy regime for importation of equipment and materials that will drive the local production process in the agro-allied industry. This will discourage capital flight as it will no longer be attractive to export agricultural products and import finished products into the country.
A conducive environment will encourage production; from scratch to finish. It is possible to move agriculture from production to the service industry. Marketing and logistics are also key areas of specialisation within the industry chain. If nurtured, strings of income can also emerge from the process. A lot has been done in other countries like U.S.A, U.K and other countries. We do not need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to learn from the successes of others.
What is the prospect of Agriculture in general in Ekiti State?
The prospect of Agriculture is quite high in Ekiti as it is in some other states. As a matter of fact, Ekiti State should not only be seen as fountain of knowledge but also as the food basket of the nation. A lot of what we have done here privately can be replicated on a higher scale. It simply needs a knowledgeable and practical person to drive the process. Industries will rise from the produce on the farm. Considering the enormity of resources available in Ekiti here, the state does not deserve the tag “poor state” hung on it for a long time. Agriculture is where our hidden wealth lies.