Olam International Limited (“Olam’’), a leading agri-business operating across the value chain in 65 countries, today welcomed His Excellency President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, to inaugurate Olam’s state-of-the-art rice mill at its large-scale pioneering rice farm in Nigeria’s Nasarawa State.
The integrated rice milling facility is situated at the heart of Olam’s 6,000-hectare greenfield irrigated and mechanised paddy farm, and will provide 36,000 metric tonnes (MT) of milled rice per annum to the domestic market, contributing to the Federal Government’s goal to improve rice self-sufficiency. With 3,000 hectares already under cultivation and a further 3,000 hectares to be developed in 2015, the farm is expected to harvest two crops per annum with four varieties of high-yield rice developed in partnership with the West African Rice Development Association.
Together the farm and the mill are expected to boost smallholder rice production in the region through a ‘nucleus and outgrower farming model’. Surrounding rice-growing communities are supported by Olam with training, pre-finance, agri-inputs and marketing linkages in order to improve their paddy yields and realisations, which are then purchased by Olam at a fair market price. Currently 3,000 farmers are engaged in the programme, with a target of 16,000 by 2018. Ultimately, 20,000 smallholder farmers will supply 30-40% of the mill’s capacity. The commercial farm itself employs up to 1,000 workers depending on seasonality, providing another source of training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The model was highlighted as a catalytic innovation in African agriculture by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2013.
Venkataramani Srivathsan, Olam’s Managing Director for Africa and Middle East, commented: “This mill, commissioned today by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, characterises three important aspects of Olam’s commitment to the agricultural sector in Nigeria. Firstly, it demonstrates how large-scale corporate farms can work hand in hand with smallholders to help advance Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda and generate rural prosperity through local processing. Secondly, it underlines the country’s ability to grow high quality, nutritious rice that can enhance domestic food security by providing an alternative to imports. Thirdly, as Olam kicks off its 25th anniversary celebrations this month, this investment is a testament to our ongoing commitment to Nigeria, the country where Olam was founded.”
He continued: “As we witness this inauguration, we are pleased to announce our plans to increase our acreage in Nasarawa up to 10,000 hectares. This will bring Olam’s total investment in the integrated farm and milling facility to over Naira 18.0 billion.”
Attending and presenting the opening speech at the inauguration, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan remarked: “The private sector is responding strongly to our rice policy, as the number of rice mills has grown from just one three years ago to 18 today.”
The President further added: “Our goal of making Nigeria a net exporter of rice will be achieved faster by encouraging large commercial farms that will complement our small-scale farmers. Large mechanised rice farms like Olam’s 6,000-hectare farm will not only boost food production but also provide significant opportunities for jobs in rural areas. These mills are producing high quality local rice that meets international standards and competes well with imported rice.”
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria commented: “Nigeria is driving a rice policy that will turn it away from being a rice importing country to a major rice exporter. The investment by Olam in a commercial rice farm and integrated rice mill will help boost domestic production and milling of international quality grade rice in Nigeria. This is a clear demonstration that our approach of taking agriculture as a business, while enabling the private sector to drive growth of the agriculture sector, is working.”
Olam’s Country Head in Nigeria, Mukul Mathur, concluded: “In 25 years, Olam is proud to have been a part of Nigeria’s development of strong export supply chains for world markets. Olam was one of the first to export sesame from Nigeria – and now Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest suppliers. Today we hope that the success of our rice model will kick-start domestic production in a similar manner, unlocking the opportunity for businesses and smallholders alike, and reducing Nigeria’s need to import 1.9 million tonnes of rice each year.”
Olam in Nigeria employs over 2,500 direct employees, 6,000 contract workers and sources from over 500,000 Nigerian rice, cocoa, cashew, sesame and cotton farmers. Olam’s businesses range from wheat milling to manufacturing and distribution of tomato paste and dairy drinks amongst others.