Soboyejo Adebayo: Agriculture is a Tough Job That Pays Well

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From raising livestock aged 10, he went on to acquire degrees in business management, business administration, accounting and engineering. Today, he’s gone back to raising animals. Dr. Soboyejo Adebayo, the Managing Director of Jocarl Breeder Farms, in this interview tells Adedayo Adejobi about what inspired him into farming, agriculture and food security in Nigeria and his views on other issues

One of the biggest challenges facing the broiler industry is the continuous flow of smuggled frozen chicken into Nigeria. What do you think?
Well, I believe strongly that the future is bright for farmers that are cost conscious, economically sound, and management a wise to guide their investments. The Nigerian Poultry industry is big, and it contributes about 10% to the agriculture GDP. Considering Nigeria’s population and growth rate, Food security in Nigeria is still very poor. There are bountiful opportunities for value addition in poultry feed industry, raw materials, growth and development of poultry production and management system in Nigeria.

Why did you go into farming?
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 with the old sci-fi movie “Doctor Who” which I’ve been 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 got determined by being a veterinarian.

What is your farming enterprise all about?
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 the 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 at which we were established in the first place. Gradually things started falling into place and we are proud to be one of the biggest producers in the industry. Our facility was installed to produce over 800,000 DOC weekly. With our recent improvements, we have been able to expand to be able to produce as much as 1.2million DOC weekly from our two state-of-the-art hatcheries. Thus, partnering a private organization in the value chains and also indirectly supporting the FG 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 major challenge is the availability of quality feedstuff. Furthermore, the issue of smuggling of frozen chicken and eggs into the country is paralyzing the industry thus making it harder for farmers to compete and break even. For a farm like ours that depends on 24/7 electricity, power generation is also an issue.

How does your company manage its brand and product differentiation?
In the poultry industry, the performance of your products is the ultimate brand. Every farm has an expectation, the moment your products, day-old chicks can surpass these expectations, it creates a brand that will be reckoned with. Our products are quite distinct, and every farmer’s clients that have encountered with us can attest to this. We have three brands of brown-egg layers chicken with a performance which is quite distinctive and surpasses the expectation of farmers and doing well in the market. Our broilers are also of such nature.

How is Nigeria’s poultry market developing?
Except for the last two years, the growth in the industry has been steady. The industry has enjoyed a steady growth, which has led to the expansion of the value chain, which occupies a lot of players both agro allied players, farmers, catering services, and there are linkages. With the recent devaluation, and recession the country experience, the poultry industry was hard hit, and this is because of increasing cost of production, which does not translate to an increased cost of goods, leading to losses for farmers –coupled with the low per capita consumption, which dropped further due to recession and low purchasing power of consumers, and the alternatives of smuggled frozen chicken into the country.

What particular challenges do Nigerian farmers face who seek alternatives to intensive production system?
The major challenge facing intensive production system is power. For instance, I have 35 closed houses that can take 7,000 breeders each in a land area of over 5 million square meters. Powering this kind of farm community is a big task in Nigeria where power supply is epileptic. I have to power my farm most times with heavy-duty generators which are expensive to maintain. Other challenges which cut across all players in the industry is increasing the cost of feeding which is about 70% cost of production. In 2014, a bag of new maize cost between N4,000 and 5N,000. Today, it costs between N8,000 and N10,000.
Though over the years, I have been an aggressive learner. I have become more formidable and versatile. My biggest achievement is my ability to be able to proffer business solutions in the poultry industry. My business management style has focused on cost management, efficient utilization of resources and scientific approach.

What do we see when we look at the current production standards in the sector in terms of safety and health?
From my perspective, our production standards and safety are high. We improve regularly on our standards. In another perspective, I think there is the need for more regulations in the industry as most farmers do not observe drug withdrawal periods. That affects the quality of products available to the consumers. More so, I think we should also join our western counterparts in the campaign against the discriminatory use of antibiotics in poultry production. The importation of poultry products and live birds into the country also needs to be addressed.

How do you see the future of poultry in the country?
Well, I believe strongly that the future is bright for farmers that are cost-conscious, economically sound, and management-wise to guide their investments. The poultry terrain in Nigeria is gradually changing. Banks are no longer willing to give loans, because of the perceived nature of poultry as a high risk, and even when they do, the rates are high. The poultry industry is huge. Available data states that the industry contributes about 10 per cent to agriculture GDP. It is an employer of over 20m people in different value chains. In 2010, Nigeria’s chicken population was close to 200m.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the issue of food security in Nigeria?
Food security in Nigeria is 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 to ensure food security and prosperity. Industrialization of the agriculture sector can guarantee this for us. And to be able to industrialize agriculture, basic infrastructures, electricity and transportation, and IT must be in place. Agriculture is a tough job and well-paying too. But the major incentive is the job creation, financial and food security.
I think the curriculum needs to change, and also a state of emergency declared in the sector. I think the NYSC should be made a farming year for teeming graduates. Government policies can make agriculture profitable and attractive. The moment the government is able to create enabling environment, and ban importations of products, this will drive the demand from inside.

What opportunities are there for value addition in poultry, raw materials, growth and development of poultry production and management system in agriculture?
There are bountiful opportunities. Like I said earlier, it’s a diversified value chain. Do you know that majority of the vitamins, colourants and amino acids used in poultry feed are made from petrochemicals? This is poultry industry reaching the oil and gas sector. The industry is very large that I cannot estimate its extent. And as such, it provides job opportunity for all.

What are the needs of Nigeria’s agricultural sector in terms of innovation?
There should be more scientific research into diseases and vaccine developments, management innovations, more husbandry research. Our agricultural institutions and universities need to be empowered to deliver on their vision.

Where else do you see opportunities for investment?
Feed additives and chemical production, veterinary pharmaceuticals and biologics, poultry product innovations and varieties.

How important is poultry to Nigeria’s economy?
Poultry industry, I perceived as an employer of labour is an industry capable of improving food security in Nigeria and also animal protein deficit in the country

What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
I will like to see Nigeria get to the point where we are the net exporter of refined and value-added agricultural products to the rest of the world. At this point, I am sure that the nation would have been able to feed itself comfortably.

Do you have any advice for the Federal Government on agriculture?
The government should continue the drive for economic diversification and above all create the enabling environment – in other words, electricity and transportation should be adequately provided so that the country can enjoy more foreign direct investment in the sector.


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