*As farmers and agro-investors plead for more government support
By Ignatius Chukwu
Right now at the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, a 120 horsepower tractor is sitting pretty for high net worth citizens to take a look and make investment decisions.
A farm machine described as ultramodern 120 horse power tractor with loading bucket was displayed at the poolside of the most prestigious resort centre in Port Harcourt, the Hotel Presidential, located on Aba Road.
The tractor is made in Nigeria by Port Harcourt-based Bobtrack Tractor Limited, a company selling tractors in 11 locations in Africa.
The CEO of Bobtrack, Mr Ibifiri Bobmanuel, said the effort began 10 years ago when the way most African used bare hands to confront farming touched him.
He revealed that for five years, his firm was developing a tractor that could do all things and still survive in African climate. He said this experiment was being done in the US.
The result, he exclaimed, is the 120-horsepower tractor that can till, plant, fertilize, spray, harvest and process farm produce. He said the farming or general agric practice in Nigeria seems designed to be a punishment, warning that young persons will not embrace it. “The palm of most farmers in Nigeria is too rough.”
Mr Bobmanuel said his firm paid attention to each component fabrication process in the US before hitting success, saying the north of Nigeria is more involved in use of tractors for mass production.
Saying his initial dream was owning an oil well (and he ended up having one) but that his passion has since shifted to agric; and that mechanization is the way to go.
He said some African governments have found use in the Bobtrack product and that Rwanda is already rooting for it. “Nobody will feed us, if we do not wake up and take feeding Nigeria serious.”
He said governments can deploy resources to create a hub for tractorization by acquiring tractors that work well in African conditions, especially the brand that has GPRS to map the area it wants to work and send report to the owners.
All the speakers at the display urged state governments to focus on agric mechanization and food processing. The leader of the South-South City Chambers Forum, Hyke Ochia, said the 120hp machine has come at a time the business community has called for mechanization.
Jerry Cunningham, CEO of a partner company, American West African Agro Limited, told the audience it was sad that Nigeria’s agriculture is still backward in terms of productivity because of manual practice.
He said the tractor was assembled and produced in Nigeria, saying Nigerian products were good but negative perception was the drawback.
The representative of the Rivers State government, Maurice Ogolo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agric, said there are many advantages in manufacturing tractors in Nigeria.
Saying there is a new dawn in agriculture, the permanent secretary said the state was set to cultivate 10,000 hectares of rice farm, cassava and others.
The National deputy president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), south-south/east, Engr Giandomenico Massari, said MAN can boost the deployment of the new machine. He said Nigeria can consume made in Nigeria goods to boost local content.
He regretted that locally made products hardly received support. Massari however warned governments that it is local production that would create jobs and wealth.
In his intervention, Engr Isaac Wornwu, and industrialist, farmer, and political leader said business suffer s because of poor support from the government.
Others also harped on the need for the government to invest heavily in agric and boost mechanization and tractorization.