With over 40 years experience in agriculture with special interest in animal husbandry, Alhaji Isa Tafida Mafindi, Yerimam Muri, has finally set up an abattoir of an international standard in Abuja.
In this interview with JIMOH BABATUNDE, Mafindi who is the CEO, Famag-jal, discloses that a documentary on a foreign media on how meat processing was badly handled in Nigeria gave rise to the idea of the state of the art abattoir. Excerpts:
On what gave rise to the idea of a modern abattoir
It began after after watching a very nasty program on Al Jazeerah on how bad we are doing in the world in processing meat. In the documentary, they were airing the state of abattoir in some states in Nigeria, including Port Harcourt, Kano, Abuja and Enugu. They were making mockery of the hygiene of the meat we consume. They said we have the best of cattle and every resource, but the general hygiene of our meat was appalling.
We were rated zero in terms of condition under which we produce this meat for consumption. I was really touched, and an idea occurred to me that instead of selling my cattle all the time to butchers, why can’t I also come up with something like a modern slaughter house where the quality of our meat can be appreciated?
So, I decided to set an example since I know the way of producing animals and growing them to a very high level, so I decided to key into the federal ministry of agriculture’s livestock value chain. Under the value chain, you grow the cattle, kill, and process in the north and move them to anywhere else in Nigeria.
Instead of loading the cattle in trailers, with the animals suffering all the bad weather, check points among others, we just process the meat here into high quality beef and other addictives before moving them to other parts of the country.
On challenges of a modern cattle farmer
One of my challenges is modality. As people are increasing in number in Nigeria, the fallow grass reserve is being reduced. So we have to get land and plant grass, harvest the grass and settle our cattle in one place.
Another one is modernising the cattle by bringing across breeds from different countries like Brazil, Australian. Lack of infrastructure challenge is also there in terms of power and roads from our farm to the market place.
You have to become a veterinary doctor or engage the services of one at a cut throat price and you are not even certain of the medicine you use, because of lack of standardization. So, in short, developing livestock and developing meat industry is not different from developing every industry in Nigeria.
So, everything is not in favour of developing an industry and yet, you are expected to employ workers and pay taxes to the authorities.
We borrowed from banks. We are into rural mobilisation. We entered into agreement with First Bank whereby soft loans are given to farmers like N500, 000, and then we manage the money for them. This allows the farmers to expand their farms.
We monitor them to get the right equipment, the right crops to plant, we monitor them till harvest and we help them to store, also market their products and pay the bank loans. When we started, there were people who started with N500, 000. Today, they are worth over N10 million. It all depends on individual effort; because we are moving with the trend.
Through the programme, some farmers upgraded to commercial agriculture. Then, with that status, we went to the First Bank, got some money to put into our system, to build one of the largest abattoirs in Africa.
On the estimate of what it has taken to get the abattoir to where it is now
Something that would have taken us six months since we opened the letter of credit to bring in the equipment…. In the port only, these equipments stayed for one year because there is no customs sub head for abattoir equipments , so they have to start to give you different cost and you challenge it.
So, it took us long time to get all the cool rooms in, because they were being classified by customs as fridges, you have to be charged at 30% when it is an agricultural item that is zero percent. Then the equipment, they thought you are assembling a vehicle instead of an abattoir.
So, in short, the challenges are real and it took us all these hurdles to reach where we are today.
On what he got from the ATA value chain
When the ministry came up with the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA), we were really clapping because if the value chain has taken off fully that means there will be value chains on crops like maize, guinea corn, sorghum , groundnut, cotton.
It means all the excess production of cotton, groundnuts, maize can be processed into livestock feeds which exactly are what we cried for, because today, if you want to get it, you don’t know where to get bulk of it.
But with the livestock, if there is a processing zone for production of groundnuts we know we have the groundnut cake and we have the groundnut leaves that can go into our livestock feed processing.
The same thing goes for sugar. If they develop full sugar production, we have the by-products as molasses, which goes into the livestock. But today we are suffering, because we are going at par with the value chain as the value chain is starting and we are starting.But since we have a dynamic minister who is focus on seeing the value chain materialize, we hope very soon, it will come to pass and we are going to be the beneficiaries of other by-products, but as at today, the condition is very difficult.
This is so, because there is no culture of processing left over, the farmers burn them up and they keep fighting cattle rearer, the cattle farms have not established permanent cattle breeding places that you can determine the history of a particular cow,