Nigeria: ‘Partnership With Governments Pivotal to Our Food Processing Ventures’

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n this interview, Teddy Ngu, Director Corporate Affairs, Africa for GBfoods Africa highlighted the benefits of the company’s recently completed N20 billion tomato processing factory in Kebbi State and the company’s projects in Katsina and Kaduna States to the nation’s economy, amongst other issues.

Tell us about GBfoods Africa’s business operations?

GBfoods Nigeria is a member of GBfoods Africa. GBfoods Europe (Large Spanish Foods Group) and Helios Investment Partners (a private equity firm, based in London, founded by Nigerians with over $3billion in assets under management) are the parents of GBfoods Africa.

GBfoods has been operating in Africa for over 40years and for over 20 years in the Nigerian Market. Our key brands in Nigeria are Gino, Bama and Jago; under which we manufacture a wide range of quality products that make the daily lives of many African families easier. Products under our brands include Gino Tomatoes Mix; Gino Pepper Onion, Gino Thyme; Gino Curry; Gino Chicken and Beef Cubes; Bama Mayonnaise as well as Jago Mayonnaise. All these products satisfy local culinary habits and offer the healthiest and best ingredients for the Nigerian and African cuisine.

GBfoods recently launched the only fully integrated tomato processing plant in ECOWAS. What motivates you to site it in Kebbi state?

Nigeria is a key market for GBfoods, and as a company whose purpose is ‘celebrating local flavours’. We were keen to reinforce our commitment to the country by increasing our production capacity. In collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Kebbi State Government and the Emirate of Yauri we recently completed a N20 billion tomato processing factory and industrial farm in Kebbi State. The factory is the second largest in Nigeria, the only fully backward integrated factory in ECOWAS sub region and also that has the largest single tomatoes farm in Nigeria. The farm serves a dual purpose of producing industrial tomatoes in the dry season and soya beans in the raining season. The tomato factory will convert fresh tomatoes into tomato concentrate used for producing Gino Tomatoes Paste and Gino Tomato Pepper Onion Paste while the soya bean will be used to process soya-bean oil which is a critical ingredient for GBfoods’ Bama and Jago Mayonnaise. The world class factory, which can process over four billion fresh fruits of tomatoes a season and with an adjoining farm of 1000Ha, includes drip irrigation and fertigation infrastructure, greenhouses, seed planting robots, incubation chambers and agricultural machinery such as harvesters, disc harrows, boom sprayers, tractors and more. Currently, we source tomatoes from our farm and also engage out-growers who grow tomatoes on their farms. When all phases of the project are finished, the factory will be the largest fresh tomatoes processing factory in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Who are your partners in this project?

GBfoods is aware that Nigeria’s efforts towards achieving food security are to be realized with an integrated approach with collaboration at its best. This project could not have been possible without the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Kebbi State Government and the Emirate of Yauri. We also commend the Federal Government for encouraging and supporting GBfoods to engage with CBN, Ministries, Departments and Agencies to ensure the successful completion of the factory.

What other projects do you have in Nigeria?

We ran tests of 25 different seed varieties in Katsina over a 3-year period from 2015-2017 and determined seeds that are likely to perform well in Nigeria. We planned to execute an industrial farm in Katsina. In Kaduna, we set up a pilot project, including a factory and an industrial farm. We successfully processed tomatoes from our farm on the Kaduna site into concentrate.

In both states, we received a lot of support from the state governments. However, the challenge of getting appropriate land near a perennial source of water for an industrial farm of a few thousand hectares made us to look for other locations and we ended up in Kebbi at a site close to the river. We are also grateful to the Katsina and Kaduna State Governments as well as their respective governors, HE Aminu Bello Masari and HE Nasir Ahmad El Rufai for the support they gave us.

Have you been receiving any support from banks?

One of the major policy mantras of the current administration is the diversification of the Nigerian economy from being an oil-focused economy. The CBN, and in particular, the CBN governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, was very supportive in encouraging us and helping us engage ministries, departments and agencies to reduce bottlenecks that might cause delays. We are also beneficiaries of the CBN agribusiness initiatives put in place by the body to enhance the agricultural sector’s growth as we successfully applied for, and obtained, CBN intervention funds.

How significant was the involvement of the Kebbi State Government in the project?

The Kebbi State Government was very instrumental in the completion of this project. The most critical requirement for a tomato farm is a perennial source of water as industrial tomato is a dry season crop that requires a lot of perennial water. We had explored over seven states with good arable land, but all did not have perennial water source by the farmlands proposed to enable dry season farming. Fortunately, we found arable land with ample water from a perennial river in Kebbi. Considering the socio-economic importance of agriculture to food production and income generation for the people of the state, the Kebbi State Government leased us a 1000-hectare farmland to be expanded over time, to produce fresh tomatoes as raw materials. We are very grateful to the state government and the Governor, Senator Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, for hosting our project and working with us to boost investments and employment in the State.

Any cooperation or protest from the host communities of this project?

Our chief host in Kebbi State is the Emir of Yauri, Dr Muhammad Zayyanu Abdullahi. His Majesty has been very welcoming and supported us especially in engaging the community and community leaders to educate them about our project and admonishing them to embrace GBfoods, especially because of the phenomenal social and economic impact anticipated from the project to the community. His words of encouragement and advice have always been prescient.

How many jobs are we expecting this project to create?

With the completion of the tomato factory and farm, we created over 500 farming jobs, 150 factory jobs, and over 150 construction jobs. As mentioned earlier, we engaged many smallholder farmers as out-growers and in the 2019/20 season. In the 2020/21 season, we will be engaging over 5,000 small holder farmers as out-growers. With the expansion of the tomato factory, the company aims to create thousands of more jobs in the ensuing years. We project that more jobs to be created will include 1,500 farming jobs, 300-500 factory jobs, over 500 construction jobs, and over 5,000 small holder farmers as out-growers.

How do you think this commitment will impact the tomato needs in Nigeria?

The output of the Factory at the moment will not satisfy all of Nigeria’s concentrate processing needs. As we expand the farm, we expect to produce enough concentrate to meet our internal needs, supply other packaging companies and also for export. However, tomato paste, like rice, is a prized staple in Nigeria’s culinary range. The country needs about 80,000-100,000MT of concentrate a year and the industry will require over one million tonnes of processable fresh tomatoes to produce that volume of concentrate. To achieve that, Nigeria needs a cumulative factory capacity of 35,000MT a day to convert the fresh tomatoes to concentrate. Today we are one of two players, both with a cumulative capacity of just under 2,000MT a day. We do not aspire to be a monopoly as the sector needs about 10 major processors to set up across the country to address this challenge. The opening of this processing factory is a great milestone for GBfoods and it reflects our commitment towards helping Nigeria achieve her food security ambitions, in this case, of self-sufficiency in tomato concentrate production.

Are there any plans for Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives to improve the lives of people in the communities where you operate?

GBfoods is an advocate of giving back to its host community as we believe in investing in the livelihood, prosperity, and stability of the communities in which we operate. We provided 16 boreholes for portable water to all the villages around our farm/factory in Kebbi as we identified access to clean water in the community as a need. We also took the initiative to fence the graveyard where the community buries the dead. We would love to understand our host communities better and figure out ways to be responsive to their needs, aspirations and expectations which is the reason why we are currently conducting an in-depth study to identify additional ways of giving them support.

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