Local Farmers Need More Information To Succeed -Oyenubi
What are your plans or agenda, as you are vying for the National President of the union?
There is one thing people have to note about agriculture, the hazards that are involved in doing the job. Up till tomorrow our government has not seen any reason why they should be paying our workers’ hazards allowance for doing their job. This is one of the candid points that I am saying. We must be able to realize that. Hazards allowances for the members of the union are very important, and beside in most cases, some of the union because of fund constricts, they don’t have good plan for the workers. We fight for people outside but those we employed we should do little things for them. I felt that there is need for me to come in and really streamline such things like a reliable pension scheme and others for the benefit of the workers.
What will you do on the issue of agricultural causal workers in the country, looking at it as a great challenge that is discouraging the youth from going into the sector?
There are issues with the Federal Ministry of Labour on causal workers. Let me be frank with you; there is no how there will not be causal workers in the sector. Because there are two season for the job, planting and harvesting. The time without planting or harvesting is between two to three months. So, no employer will employ someone that is doing nothing and keep the worker in the company until the two seasons of work. But with the ideas that we have now, it will allowed those work to be contracted to companies that have management. So, if they are employing those workers, the condition in that contract addition must be included in their salaries, even if they are leaving the work it will not make any difference to the workers. We have spoken with the Federal Ministry of Labour on outsourcing of workers and we have sat down with the ministry, they agreed that any outsource person in any organisation must be unionized. And as they are unionized, we will be able to cater for their welfare and that is one thing we have been able to achieve in Lagos state.
How will the union encourage the youth to develop more interest in agriculture sector, looking at the opportunities that abound in farming?
It is two way things. Number one, lack of information has become a problem in the society and if people are aware of what to plant, when to plant, where to plant and how to sell it, they will be encouraged to go into farming.
Let us look at the Nigerian market today, if government have a plant where tomatoes could be taken to for processing into tins, it will go a long way to curtail wastage of tomatoes in the country. Our government needs to create the environment so people can come and invest in the sector. As unions, we need to move very close to government and as President Muhammadu Buhari have told Nigerians that agriculture will be promoted greatly, we have to work with the government to get what we want. I know a farmer who invested over N1 million into his farm and by the time he harvested the products, he was not able to recover up to N200, 000. If we have the market where the end products can sell, Nigerian farmers will make more money and profits for their investment.
In Lagos State, there are a lot of schemes for the youth, like Agriyes. Agriyes is a programme, youth are trained and later given land to farm with all the necessary things they needed for farming. And the state buys the products of their farming. This is encouraging. The state has provided so many lands for farming and the issue is awareness, because people are not aware of those activities, even in other states of the federation.
The country is expecting ministers’ appointment, what kind of person does the union wishes should be appointed as agriculture minister looking at the performance of the immediate past minister?
We wish the president to appoint the right person because if you see the great job the former minister, who is an agriculturist did in the sector. So, anybody that will head the ministry will be somebody who has idea for the sector. And I am very sure Mr. President will bring another agriculturist to be a minister. Even in Lagos State, the governor is bringing an agriculturist to be the commissioner.
Every year, a lot of agriculture products are been wasted in the country, in your estimation, how much is Nigeria losing?
The fact is, let us look at a farmer using N1 million in a farm project and he does not realise N200, 000 at the end of the season. That means, we are losing more than 80 percent of what we produce in Nigeria as a waste because of lack of technology to preserve our farm produce. How many of the farm produce can Nigeria consume? For instance, how many trailers of tomatoes and cows enter Lagos State on a daily basis?
How do you think we can prevent agriculture products wastage in the country, and where is the place of value chain in the sector?
We have our paper with Mr. President. We want him to create an enabling environment for the investors to come in and invest in the processing of our agriculture produce. The problem we are having before now is that some big farmers that are producing tomatoes have the means of sending it outside the county to sell, and they are trying as much as possible not to allow somebody else to bring the same product into the country. It has been a problem and we have realised that so many big farmers in Nigeria today have links aboard to sell their products. If investors are allowed to come in there will be job opportunity for the people and abundant of food for people to eat.
The issue of tomatoes wastage is rampant in the northern region of the country and there is a company like the Dangote group and others producing tin tomatoes. We would have expected local farmers to supply tomatoes to these companies?
The problem is very clear; the point is that the tin tomatoes producers want to make maximum profit and they are into farming too. Instead of them buying end products from the local farmers, they will go and farm as well. Again, as I said earlier, information is a problem most of the farmers don’t know where and how to sell their end products. Like cassava, many companies in the country are buying a lot of cassava from the local farmers. When investors are allowed into the country to invest, local farmers should be made to supply raw materials to their companies. But a situation where investors have their own farmlands producing the raw materials, such development will not support local farmers in any country.
Why should the country wait for foreign investors when we have indigenous farmers who have the capacity to invest in the sector?
The indigenous investor that goes into agriculture knows where to sell their end products. What Nigerians feed on are the peasant farmers’ produces. The last time I travelled to the USA, people in the supermarket were asking for products from Obasanjo farm. So, these are some of the problems local farmers are facing, even we are not enjoying the Obasanjo farm’s chicken in our country. Until we have investors, who will create platforms for local farmers, there may not be much improvement in farming.
Some farmers in the North region are accusing the ones in the South of selling fertilizers to them after collecting it from the ministry. They said that the southern farmers don’t use fertiliser because the southern land is fertile. What is your opinion on such accusation?
It is a known fact that God endowed the southern region with a fertile land. And I don’t think that southern region farmers need the fertilizers as much as the northern farmers need it. The issue of fertilizer is politicized already and some people are there making money out of it.
In some countries, agriculture companies provide accommodation for their workers, but reverse is the case in Nigeria.
Do you have any plan to come with such development if you become the national president?
If you are outside Lagos state, people will tell you that the state is not into agriculture, which is not true. Lagos state is the highest producer of rice in the country today. Farm settlements cut across all the six geo political areas in Nigeria. The only thing we need is to re-orientate the people to know what to do. Like Lagos state, they have fishing estate, rice settlements where the state built two to three flats for the workers to live. I am a farmer too and I build edifice for my workers, who work in the farms. The farm houses are there but the problem is that awareness is not there and people don’t know where to go.