By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The Ekiti State government has taken drastic measures to develop its local livestock industry, riding on the need to wean the state from its dependence on livestock products from the Northern part of the country, as well as to shore up dwindling revenue and help beat the addiction to crude oil revenue.
The state government, it would be recalled, had been grappling with food insecurity, revenue shortage as well as rising insecurity brought about by the activities of rampaging Fulani herdsmen who daily wreck havoc on her citizens and their properties.
Food insecurity was recently heightened by the food/cattle blockade imposed on the Southern part of the country by some Northern traders and unions.
In order to attain self-sufficiency in food production as rapidly as possible, the state government under the leadership of Governor Kayode Fayemi, decided to initiate an ambitious agricultural revolution, beginning with livestock farming.
Available data show that 95 percent of cattle herds in Nigeria are local indigenous breeds with an average milk supply of two litres per day from each cow which is not enough for significant dairy production. Several months after, the Ekiti plan has started yielding results with the resuscitation of the 40-year-old Ikun Dairy Farm in Ikun-Ekiti, Moba Council Area of state.
Commissioned in the early 1980s by former President Shehu Shagari as an integrated agro-allied farm, the facility was intended among other purposes, to create jobs and boost the state’s economy. For several years, the project lived up to expectations by providing the state government with the much needed revenue.
However, the abandonment of the facility and its products by successive military administrations for imported products, and the radical shift from internally generated revenues (IGR) to the monthly revenue allocation from Abuja, the diary farm which covers 1,000 hectares gradually ran aground.
Several civilian administrations before the coming of Governor Kayode Fayemi have made concerted effort to revive the edifice without any success. For instance, a former governor of the state, Dr. Segun Oni, tried to revamp the farm by investing over N1billion for the purchase of machines and importation of 700 cows from South Africa.
Oni’s intervention however, fell short of the desired objective, leading to the loss of billions of naira spent for its revival.
Instead of being discouraged, Governor Fayemi, beginning from 2019, staged another salvage effort. Rather than toeing the paths threaded by his predecessors, he decided to change tactics by embracing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) option.
Shortly after winning a second term, he embarked on a road show across the length and breadth of the country and beyond the nation’s shores to sell the potentials of the state to investors.
One of the potential investors Governor Fayemi approached during his road show, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, makers of Cowbell Milk, Loya Milk, Cowbell Chocolate, Miksi Milk, Top Tea, Onga food seasoning, Sunvita Cereals, and others, sent delegations to the state on more than four occasions to assess the viability of doing business in the state.
The story soon changed for the better when the state government, represented by the governor sealed an agreement with Promasidor Nigeria to revive the Ikun Diary Farm on July 23, 2019 at a ceremony in Abuja. While Governor Fayemi signed on behalf of the Ekiti State government, the then Managing Director of Promasidor Nigeria Limited, Anders Einarsson, signed for his company.
Under the agreement, while Promasidor will provide capital, technical expertise and execute the route to market strategy required to drive a sustainable partnership, the state government will make available the existing facility, necessary infrastructure and security.
Promasidor is expected to make an initial investment of $5m for the purchase of diary equipment and procurement of 250 new cows from Texas to add to the existing ones.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was also brought in to help facilitate the procurement of cows from the U.S. According to the brains behind the project, the diary farm is expected to produce 10,000 litres of milk daily when fully operational.
Business Hallmark checks revealed that the collaboration between the state, Promasidor and USAID has largely resuscitated the once moribund facility.
During a recent visit of our correspondent to the farm in Ikun-Ekiti, it was observed that the facility is already up and running. For instance, a 250 hectares feeding farm where hay, brachiaria, cassava, sorghum, maize and Nadia grass are cultivated for the cows is fully cultivated and already providing the much needed food for the herds.
BH gathered the clearing and cultivation of the land started in 2019 and was ready before the arrival of the first set of cows from Texas, which is the largest producer of hay in the United States, in February 2021. The hay farm and the 250 cows from Texas, it was learnt, were facilitated by Promasidor.
Around 1,000 cows were also seen feeding in different lots allocated to them. The cows, a farm hand told BH, are made up of existing stock, the 400 brought into the country in 2020, the 250 imported from Texas in February, the already pregnant 277 from New Jersey, U.S. which arrived in crates at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on April 16, 2021.
There was however, a mild a drama at the cargo area at the international wing of the MMIA when one of the cows broke loose from its crate, leaving airport workers at the tarmac running for cover.
The cows were being offloaded at the Gate 3 between the Skypower Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) and the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) sheds when one of the crates carrying them got damaged and the ground staff could not secure the cows after offloading which forced one of them to break loose and started chasing airport workers present on the tarmac. The erring cow was later captured and returned to the crate, while the herd was later taken to Ikun Dairy Farm the same day.
Some of the facilities in place and already in use are the milk bay, 2000m3 hay storage facility, farm houses, sheds, two 2,500 litres of milk storage tank, five new boreholes, tractors and cultivators.
The state government has also embarked on the rehabilitation of the Ero Dam, as well as the construction of a modern irrigation system to ensure all year-round cultivation of hays, maize, sorghum and cassava for the herd; water for the irrigation system is expected to be pumped from the Ero Dam.
Speaking to newsmen during a tour of the facility, Governor Fayemi said the dairy farm will create thousands of jobs directly for youths, and indirectly improve the economy of Ikun-Ekiti, neighbouring communities, and Ekiti State at large.
According to Fayemi, the farm would serve as a prototype for National Livestock Transformation Plan in addressing farmers-herders crisis in the State.
The governor said unlike cows owned by itinerant Fulani herders, the new pregnant cows will be confined to their sheds in the farm, noting that about 500 hectares of land had already been acquired to grow fields that will be used to take care of the animals to prevent them from roaming about.
“These cows are going to be stationary, they are not roaming anywhere; they are not going on open grazing, they are right here on the farm. You know what we have suffered from open grazing not just in the state but across the length and breadth of the country.
“Once this model works, it will be an indication of what we can achieve through National Livestock Transformation Plan.
“And from what you have heard from the manager, this is a 24-hour-weekly (24/7) operation, the milk is going to come out of the milk parlour 24/7 and then transportation, marketing and other aspects of the value chain coming to Ekiti.
“We have an experienced person who is in charge, who has done this tonnes of time before coming to work here. We are reasonably confident that this is the partnership that will work with Promasidor,” Fayemi said.
While taking government officials, guests and the media on inspection tour of the facility, the General Manager of the farm, Mr. Hermann Kibler, a Dutch, said the stage was set for the commencement of full-scale milk production.
He further disclosed that the farm is still expecting a few hundreds of cows which would be delivered in the coming months.
Also speaking, Promasidor’s CEO, Bruno Gruwez, said the integration initiative would give the company an edge over others in the dairy market with the potential of the farm. Gruwez, who was appointed in January, said Ikun Dairy Farm will provide a litany of opportunities to stimulate the production of local milk, which would further create an opportunity for the company to utilise.
He affirmed that as the makers of quality products such as Cowbell Milk, Loya Milk, Cowbell Chocolate, Miksi Milk, Top Tea, Onga food seasoning, Sunvita Cereals, and others, local sourcing of milk is paramount to ease dependence on foreign raw materials.
He noted that Promasidor’s backward integration initiative would give the company an edge over others in the dairy market with the potential of the farm.
According to him, no fewer than 1,000 Ekiti citizens would be employed when the dairy farm is fully operational. He further assured that the project will have a spill-over effect on small, medium and large scale enterprises.
Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, lauded Governor Fayemi for his effort at bringing more investors which would translate to the development of the state. In its own comment, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria said the livestock project is a great collaboration with Consulate Lagos that would help Nigeria grow and diversify its economy.
“U.S. Dairy Milk Cows in Ekiti State, Ikun dairy farm plans to reach 10,000 litres of milk daily with cows from the USA. A great collaboration with Consulate Lagos that helps Nigeria grow and diversify its economy.”