To attract more investments in agribusiness, governments must open up the space for smallholder farmers, ensure sufficient fund is provided for research and intensify efforts to remove investment bottlenecks.

This was the submission of investors at the Plenary on Edo Agro-industrial Revolution and Agribusiness Transformation at the Alaghodaro Investment Summit, in Benin City, Edo State on Friday.

The discussion leader and Chairman, PRESCO Plc., Felix Nwabuko, said the agriculture is still bedeviled by myriad of challenges, such as lack of access to finance, land acquisition, infrastructure, community clashes amongst others.

According to him, “All of these have serious impact on agribusiness. Some of the issues that exist include climatic variations, which Edo State is thankfully not susceptible to. But chief of the challenges that have bedeviled the system is the inadequate research as well as the low utilisation of mechanised tools.”

He added that Edo State is home to four federal research institutes but stressed that he has not really benefited from them, adding, “I don’t think any state can ask for any better. But these institutes are underfunded and lack basic infrastructure. However, they need to develop tools and products that can attract private sector investment. Businesses will be happy to define research focus for the institutes.”

Noting that there is need to change the trend, he said, “The case going forward, shouldn’t be about planting more hectares, but in getting more from the same plot of land. To make the best in agriculture, we need to allow markets to drive agriculture. We need to encourage businesses to produce competitively.”

Rasheed Sarumi said that the SARO Agro Services was working to actualise the state government’s vision to create jobs and engage youths through agriculture, adding, “We are using market-led approach to agriculture in Edo State. The arrangement is that we would buy what the people produce and we are to provide them with inputs and training.”
He added that the firm initially ran into initial glitches because youths didn’t apply to be part of its out-grower scheme.

“Each of the outgrowers, who are youths, are to own a 5-hectare farm and employ 50 others. We intend to process maize into feeds in Edo State. Though we are starting with maize, we are moving to other crops.”

Adhi Narto of Dufil said that the company has been in Nigeria in the last 20 years, but the investments in Edo State is part of deepening the company’s backward integration strategy.

He said, “We are concerned about efficiency. Though we have issues with infrastructure, we believe they are teething problems. We want to make Edo State a hub for our investments in Nigeria. This is because from our insight, the sales in Edo State is three times more of what we make nationwide.

The President, Association of Edo Farmers, Chief Emmanuel Odigie, said that farmers in the state face a number of challenges and urged Federal and State governments to work in synergy to address them. He said 80 per cent of arable land in the state in the forest stage, noting that the state government should intensify efforts to change the narrative.