* Agreement signed in PH between Luma Brazil and Nigeria’s Bobtrack
· Partnership to focus high-tech on the rice value chain
· Nigerian partner says Niger Delta is bigger in rice potentials than in fishery
By Ignatius Chukwu
Nigeria may become a rice hub in the coming years if the deal recently signed by Luma Brazil and Bobtrack Nigeria yields gains.
A private sector-driven rice revolution has been launched by an international partnership deal signed in Port Harcourt last week.
The deal was signed between Luma Brazil and Nigeria’s Bobtrack; two firms that want to take it from where the $1.1Bn tractor grant from Brazil to Nigeria failed.
The focus of the latest move is said to be on the rice value chain in Nigeria that would help turn Nigeria from an importing to an exporting country, just like in cement.
The details of the deal were made known to BusinessDay in Port Harcourt by the CEO of Bobtrack, the Nigeria private sector partner, Ibifiri Bobmanuel.
Bobmanuel said the Brazilian team came to PH to sign partnership with Bobtrack.
He said the Brazilians share common interest in developing both markets beyond the Nigeria green project worth $1.1Bn. “That agreement has not been crystallized, meaning that the FG has not been able to do what it takes to activate the agreement. So, the participating partners such as Luma of Brazil and Bobtrack of Nigeria chose to go it alone in some possible ways.
According to Bobmanuel, the two companies said, beyond what the public sector partners (governments) ought to do but did not do, it has not happened. “But we see the potentials of building both markets. So, the CEO of Luma came to Nigeria and Bobrack played host to them where fruitful meetings took place.
“We have reached that part where we think we can start doing these things, running on those partnerships without waiting for the governments. When the public sector partners think they can do the needful, we can go back to status quo. That was the kind of meeting with the CEO of Luma, Afonso Nogueira Filha. He came here with his team to PH and they were very pleased with the reception and all we did and what we do here.”
The Rice Value Chain
Bobmanuel went on: “We find out that Nigeria heavily imports rice and we still do not have the technical knowhow to drive the rice revolution. Now, both companies are merging their forces and funds to look at the penetration of the rice value chain.
In the next couple of months, he added, the partnership will unravel for the better. “We now have private participation willing as companies to invest in that value chain. We will support businesses that want to go into that stage with more technology, more technical backups. These are the areas the agreement will afford us to do.”
He said Nigerian rice farmers and states that do have rice potentials would be touched. “We have a lot of potentials in rice farming in the Niger Delta. This is bigger than aquaculture and fishery which we have ignored.”
By this partnership, he stated, the group would explore this rice value chain. “The issue here is not that we do not have what to do as a people and government, but the will by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the economic handlers to see how they could work with private sector players to actualize the potentials is not there. That is the problem. Otherwise, if a company could come all the way from Brazil to come and partner with us here in Nigeria, how much more our CBN that is within us, be it state or FG, how much more such bodies. Why don’t they come and identify with us? See how much foreigners see and crave.”
Saying the company was not interested in complaining, the president of the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF), said he was happy by the vintage position Bobtrack finds itself. “The hardest circumstances will still afford us things to achieve. The industry we are in is like the golden hen that lays the golden egg, but we are not appreciated. We record more international recognition, purchases, than local patronage.”
Outsiders patronize tractors made in Nigeria more than Nigerian governments
Bobmanuel said countries like Rwanda, Ghana, Benin Republic were procuring our products more than our home governments. “It is so bad that a company from faraway from Brazil will see the potentials we have and come to take time to explore it and sign partnership agreement. Our governments don’t seem to see these opportunities. Well, we are not complaining. We will follow it through.
“A good product does not have any hiding place because it will always have somewhere itself.”
The REIF president said: “We expect further drive and penetration in the market and most importantly a situation where we begin to turn around that local production quota of rice to something more significant.
“All the indices that are being shared by the various media channels and CBN and Ministry of Agric do not add up.
“We cannot say we are producing a certain amount of rice when we cannot see the requisite tech that produced it or to back it up. If we did produce that quantity, the cost of rice would have actually come down rather than go up. There must be something amiss.”
In our own thinking, he went on, “We leave that in the hands of the CBN because we think it has not been very fair in the grant and policy support in agric. If they had been getting it right, and if they did what they claimed to do such as giving grants to farmers, there is no way it would not have trickled to purchase of equipment.”
He said Bobtrack is the only indigenous assembling and manufacturing company of tractors. “If you are doing all this and we do not have any feel, no overtures, nothing, where then are you doing these things?
“We have other tractors produced in other parts of the world such as John Deere and Ferguson and other British products but no other one that is home grown competing in the international market than what we have. That is why we say we are the only indigenous tractor company.
“We are not saying we do not have other companies (Toyota, GM, Mitsubishi, etc) but there is no product of international stature from Nigeria than Bobtrack. You find our tractors being sold in Dubai. None has done what we have done in Nigeria today.”
Essence of the partnership
The Bobtrack CEO said the partnership points to the fact that the private sector in PH and in Nigeria was doing something right. It means that the prospects and future of agriculture are still very bright. “At a point, you begin to ask whether you are alone seeing the potentials, seeing what the Nigerian economy has in these comparative sectors? But because you see foreign experts seeing what you saw, you now feel that truly the future is brighter.”
Nigeria, Africa’s agric hub:
As a result of such partnerships, Nigeria can become Africa’s agric hub. “The potentials in Africa is in Nigeria in Agric. We could actually turn Nigeria into the Agro Hub of Africa. Such partnership could cut into other markets as Luma has in South Africa and Central Africa. It opens us into these other markets and gives us impetus. These were the points that came out of the meetings.”
On the areas the two companies would exploit away from the big agreement governments were to sign, Bobmanuel said Nigeria has a big market in agric which is very much untapped. “The Brazilian government was to use their companies to partners with Nigerian companies to meet the demands of the Nigerian market, but the FG has not been to access the grants.
“Now, we are not talking about grants but about business-to-business (B2B) engagement: come together, form an alliance that can be strong enough to support Nigerian farmers directly through B2B understanding and agreements.”
He said the partnership requires lots of bolts and nuts but before end of 2023, they would begin to feel the impact of the agreements signed.