By Jimoh Babatunde
The Managing Director, USAID funded Maximizing Agricultural Revenue & Key Enterprises in Target Sites (MARKETS), Mr. Tim Prewitt has disclosed that they are set to increase Nigeria’s agriculture competitiveness and food security with its activities.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos recently, Prewitt said they are interested in helping Nigeria grow more food, “increasing yield using on farm technology, technology could be new seed, application of fertilizer, farming technique and machinery.”
He added “MARKETS is strengthening farming, strengthening businesses, strengthening industries, so our goal is to make Nigeria more competitive in agriculture.”
Prewitt said they are currently working in twenty-four states in the country including the Federal Capital, Abuja where they are using the comprehensive value chain approach, adding that they also have other approaches that are related to agriculture like transportation, policies, Customs modernization.
MARKETS’ Managing Director explained that they are involved in some commodities like Sorghum, Maize, Cassava, Rice, Sesame, Cowpea, Rice and Fisheries in the twenty-four states.
“The simple value chain for example is Sorghum that is grown primarily in northern Nigeria and is grown with different varieties, you have white, you have red, you have yellow sorghum.
The Sorghum grown in Nigeria is high quality, if grown properly to get to the malting plant, but to get it to the malting plant you need to grow the right kind of Sorghum, you need to grow large grain Sorghum that will go into the machine properly and produce malt that is then use in confectionaries, sweet, beverage, beer and others.”
Explaining what they have been able to do in the area of Sorghum, Prewitt said they normally start by May by working with farmers to get seed on credit, using the Nigerian Agricultural Cooperative and Rural Development Bank (NACRDB), so that they can invest in purchasing the more expensive fara_fara variety. The fara_fara seed requires more weeding and care, which is why we are working with 15,000 farmers to improve their farming techniques.
“We get credit from them and send to the farmers and then we work with planting, we make sure the farmers understand the right farming technique, fertilizer application, weeding and in October we have harvest and storage and in the market pricing survey which we do jointly with farmers to establish a fair price and then buy back and transport.”
MARKETS improves the quality of supply for the malting plant and increases farmer income by providing linkages between commercial seed companies and large groups of farmers. The seed companies not only sell farmers the seeds they require to sell to the malting plant, but also serve as production coordinators and buy back agents, going so far as to transport the crop to the malting plant.
He said they have about 6000 farmers in Kaduna state this year where some of the farmers have been able to turn a product which is traditionally grown as a subsistence food to feed the family now to a cash crop that earns income for the family. We also help farmers in five states, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Plateau.
MARKETS has linked sorghum farmers to the Aba Malting Plant, a USD 67 million automated plant in Abia State which processes up to 30,000 metric tons of sorghum into malt