Federal Ministry of Agriculture has commended Notore Chemical Industries Limited’s support to green revolution programme for food production in the country, noting that food security is now a matter of national security.
In a statement, Notore said the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, explained that Nigeria must learn from Asian countries by tapping into all resources of its farmers across the nation and delivering a green revolution that will make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production.
“We must turn Nigeria into a bread basket, a power house for food production. To do so, we must make a fundamental paradigm shift. Agriculture is a business, not a development programme. It must be structured, developed, resourced and financed as a business,” he said.
Notore said one sure way to achieve the minister’s food self-sufficiency goal is the astronomical increase in farm output that comes with the adequate use of fertiliser “and this is where Notore Chemical Limited, the only company that manufactures fertiliser in Africa, south of the Sahara including South Africa could easily pass as the most thoughtful investment in Nigeria in the past decade and half”.
“Farm output in Nigeria could easily be 20 times of what it currently is if fertiliser is accessible to farmers in Nigeria every time and anytime. But being one of the commodities around which much corruption thrived, it had been a near impossibility for real farmers to get fertiliser without first going through portfolio farmers and politicians.
“All these non-farming fertiliser merchants were interested in was the massive government subsidy that accompanied the commodity, which of course, never got to actual farmers in the far-flung rural communities where most of them lived and farmed.
“Thankfully, the story today is different because all a farmer needs to have now is as little as N120 and he would have a 1kg packaged Notore Fertiliser for his nutrient-hungry crops. As it stands now, the only people that qualify for any form of subsidy are those who have invested in the local production of this desperately-needed commodity because they can easily transfer the subsidy to farmers with cheaper fertiliser prices,” Notore stressed.
Forbes once wrote of the Notore ingenious investment, saying: “From time to time, we will write mini-profiles of outstanding African companies, which are constantly providing audacious and innovative solutions to some of the continent’s most daunting challenges.
“Today, we profile Notore Chemical Industries, a pioneering Nigerian Fertiliser Company that is boosting Africa’s farm yields and working assiduously towards accelerating the continent’s green revolution. If African agricultural yields could be raised to European levels, it would be possible for the continent to provide at least 50 per cent more food than it currently does. But it takes fertiliser to make this happen. Currently, Notore Chemical Industries, a $400 million (revenues) Nigerian company is the only producer of urea fertiliser in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa.
“Urea is a by-product of the oil and gas industry, which alongside agriculture, is Nigeria’s other major industry. By making fertiliser more accessible to farmers through its supply chain and pricing, Notore is helping to stimulate the local production of foods such as rice and sugar, increasing self-sufficiency and reducing the continent’s dependence on imports.
“And it is some dependence – last year alone, African countries spent over $30 billion importing food. Seven out of ten Africans earn their living from farming. Yet, even at this time of high unemployment, farming remains a low-input and low-output enterprise, unpopular with the young – a critical imbalance which Notore aims to redress with education programmes and training,” Forbes stated.
Notore also received accolades at the Ernst & Young’s Strategic Growth Forum in Africa.
A report released by the organisers of the forum noted that Notore was picked as an example of business innovation excellence, during a panel session titled ‘transforming your supply chain: better, faster, cheaper across Africa and beyond’.
According to reports from the global event, supply chain and logistics experts deliberated on how effective supply chain management can be a critical differentiator in the face of poor infrastructure.
“Notore’s supply chain process was featured as a success story within a case study on ‘Innovation in Supply Chain in Africa’. In building its distribution network, Notore works with a number of carefully selected partners to guarantee the availability and maintain the quality of products to all communities nationwide.
It has developed products in pack sizes (1kg, 10kg, and 50kg) and pricing that address the unique needs of each user,” the conference noted.
As part of efforts to ensure that Africa comes top among the fastest growing economies over the next five years, Ernst & Young recently brought CEOs, chief financial officers, leading entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts together. This was part of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum event series.
According to the organisers, “the exciting developments in Africa are creating a business environment rich with opportunities and the time is ripe for the innovative strategic conference themed ‘Unlocking value to grow beyond the possible’.”
During a tour of the plant by Adesina, Notore noted that it has achieved 98 per cent capacity utilisation for Ammonia production and 100 per cent for Urea, and the company will produce 600,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser in the current year.
Okoloko, who revealed this, said Notore now exports fertiliser to Cameroon, Togo, Ivory Coast, France, Uruguay, Senegal and Angola. This, according to him, “is proof of the international standard and quality of our products”.
Notore accounts for 100 per cent of the Urea market in Nigeria because most of the big importers of Urea no longer import it. The company’s NPK plant was launched few months back. Based on this, the company possesses a huge share of the market.
Okoloko stated need to engender an import substitution programme in such a way that “we actually produce for our local market and export the excess only after the local market has taken in its volume”.
“And that way we can conserve foreign exchange in Nigeria, and begin to earn foreign exchange from any additional export outside what is demanded in the local market and grow the country into one of the leading economies in the year 2020,” he said.
Listing his company’s achievements to date further, Okoloko said: “We participated in the Federal Government fertiliser supply in 2009, 2010 and 2011. We worked with the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC). “PropCom, IITA, the World Bank and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), built a world class supply chain network supporting agro-dealers and village programme scheme and commenced seed business”, he said.
He explained the concept of commercial farming and subsistence farming: “A lot of people believe that commercial farming means large scale farming. Yes, in a way that is right. But there are certainly different types of regions that have certain types of farming structures.
“In America or in the first world, you can actually have big commercial farmers. But in areas like China, India, Thailand, Pakistan, where farming today has reached commercial levels, those farmlands are in smallholder farms structures. The big exports that come to us here in Nigeria are products of these smallholder farmers put together,” he added.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development commended Notore for its good structure and for being a well-run company.
He noted in particular that Notore appropriately has in its mission statement ‘improving the lives of people. “What is important in agriculture is improving the lives of people,” he said.
The minister faulted the claim in certain quarters that fertiliser causes a lot of environmental problem in Africa, therefore, what Africa needed “is low input or in fact no input at all”.
“No, that is not true. The reason the yields are low in Africa is not because we are misusing fertiliser, it is because we are not using fertiliser at all. The deforestation rate in Africa today is 200 per cent of the global average just because we are not using fertiliser.
“So, most of the production today comes out of the expanding cultivated area, not from increase in yield per unit area. And there is no way we can continue with that in Nigeria. That is not environmentally sound or sustainable. So for us to feed ourselves as a country, we must fundamentally change the use of seeds, the use of fertilisers, and water,” he added.
On the issue of seeds, he commended Notore for its foray into seed business. “Life of agriculture starts with seeds,” he said.
“We are using today in Nigeria 8,000 metric tonnes of seeds for a population of 150 million people. Kenya’s population is 40 million and they produce and use 40,000 metric tonnes of seeds.
“The fundamental reasons why our yields are one of the lowest in the world is because we are not using improved seeds. And I am determined that during my term as Minister of Agriculture in this country we will grow the seed sector in a very strategic way,” he added.
Notore Chemical Limited acquired the former National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria (NAFCON) for $152 million in 2005, and signed a 20-year gas plan in 2006 with Nigerian Gas Company. In 2007, it raised $222 million in debt from a consortium of Nigerian banks.
Notore recently signed a technical service agreement with Tata Chemicals of India. As technical partner, Tata will help Notore in meeting its medium term expansion plans through the optimisation of its operations in Onne, Rivers State.
The technical partnership agreement is a significant move for Notore, as it seeks to expand by leveraging on the expertise of the management of one of the most efficient fertiliser plant in the world.