Maxwell Umeokafor Obumneme, chief executive, Jocarol Nigeria Limited, a private limited liability company with two decades experience in commodities export highlights some of the issues in export business in this interview with OLUYINKA ALAWODE
We export commodities such as cashew nuts, ginger, Poundo yam flour, hardwood, charcoal and sesame seeds to various countries in the world. Based on this track record, we are specialists in the field of commodities export and export consultancy. We conduct export seminars across Nigeria. Our priority is to equip Nigerians with the knowledge and skills needed to reap from the untapped business associated with export trade especially in commodities export.
Our team is made of independent highly skilled professionals who have been in the export trade with major international commodities buyers for over a decade. We operate a synergy based consultancy services with expert advice and services especially in commodities export, products sourcing and freight forwarding etc. Our team also has wide contact with more than 72 farmers and suppliers of agro based commodities across Nigeria.
Our major export goods are mainly commodities like cassava pellets, cashew nuts, sesame seeds, hard wood charcoal, leather, etc. Our export contracts are with major and important players in buying and importing countries.
Our general services in the field of consulting also include oil exploration in the up-stream /down-stream sector, goods haulage, clearing and forwarding and regular conducting of export seminars. Our core area of competence is in securing of export licenses, export contracts, contract execution and products sourcing for all attendees of our export trainings. We also source for international buyers for the products and do quality specifications inspection especially for the eleven products Jocarol has specialised knowledge in. We satisfy the need for information or all companies that have sent representatives to attend our trainings.
Our mission is to conduct seminars and workshops to train Nigerians to understand the rudiments and nitty-gritty of export business. This is because export business remains one of the most untapped and most profitable business ventures which unfortunately many Nigerians are not favourably disposed to, leaving it in the hands of very few who are mainly foreigners in Nigeria, thereby causing capital flight. Our aim in conducting these seminars is to demonstrate that export business involves low capital and it is the best business to conduct in this period of economic melt-down. With export business one will realise that recession and economic melt-down is just a thing of the mind. Nothing pays more than buying and sourcing products in local currency and then selling/exporting to earn foreign currency thereby making mega profit.
Our target clients cut across federal, state and local governments and private investors with whom we partner for the establishment of database and framework on various agricultural potentials that exist within their territory. We go further in our partnership with them to carry out feasibility studies on ways and strategies these agricultural products and minerals can be harnessed for the common benefit and generation of revenue for them. We have done this with many councils and state governments. Of recent is our partnership with the Lagos state ministry of agriculture and cooperatives through their Farm Service Centre where a lot of agricultural farmers and investors have been trained and consulted for on the economics/profitability of their investments. We do the same things with intending private companies and individuals who really want to reap from this non-oil export especially through agro commodities and investments. Through our efforts in creating awareness a significant number of individual companies have diversified into agro commodities
I got the inspiration when writing my masters degree thesis in Europe on the topic that hovered on investment in agriculture. The topic was centred on Spain which has no crude oil, not even in the whole of Europe is there crude oil. But Spain has successfully used agriculture to feed not only itself but the whole of Europe as the country’s export base is hinged on agro products. Though our company owns one of the biggest farms in South east Nigeria, the study and experience I have acquired in the agric sector really ignited the passion to partner with relevant authorities and stakeholders to see that we attain self-sufficiency in food production and increase our capacity for export. We believe if the federal government’s current policies are sustained, we would make a lasting impact in the renewed drive to boost agriculture.
In one of our researches, we discovered that each state in Nigeria is blessed with one crop or the other. Ondo is blessed with rubber, cocoa and cassava, same with Delta state. Ekiti is blessed with cassava, just to mention a few. Statistically, every state in Nigeria is endowed. So why import food? So, our company is passionately looking forward to the 2015 set date for self-sufficiency in rice production. A close look at Ebonyi and Kwara states and some other states will attest to the fact that we have no business importing rice.
All agricultural products from Nigeria have export markets. The Return On Investment (ROI) on bitter-kola remains one of the highest and is very profitable even though to export a 40 feet container of bitter kola can cost up to N30 million. But the ROI on that capital is not less than 70 percent depending on the exchange rate which is also a major determinant factor.
The greatest challenge that exporters in Nigeria face is capital especially with regards to adding value on goods to be exported. The storage systems and poor quality of some of the products exported hinder the foreign exchange target from this sector. Some products are also not tested by an SGS inspection company and this is a challenge because many buyers demand SGS` quality assurance certificate as a condition for payment.
Our greatest target in all these from our numerous presentations is the onerous need to start adding value on products exported and improve on the packaging of these products to attract more international clientele. Fortunately, use of inorganic fertilizer is not yet prevalent with our agricultural systems as organically grown food has better chances in the international market.
Personally I have no issue with foreigners coming to establish farm plantations. It is all part of the answer to the call for foreign direct investment (FDI) by the federal government as long as these investments contribute positively to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The government needs to encourage farmers and exporters to add value to their local produce so as to command better international prices. Raw cashew nuts for instance can never command the same price with processed cashew nuts in the international market. For decades, Nigeria has been the chief exporter of these raw cashew nuts to countries like Vietnam and India where they are processed. The government can encourage exporters with needed capital to set up processing industries to attain this for all agricultural produce of economic importance. To achieve success, these investments must be in the hands of the private sector.
The policies the government has put in place have been encouraging especially with regards to Export Expansion Grant started during Obasanjo’s regime. This encourages every exporter that goes through the proper channels with a grant. So that makes export business even more lucrative. We need many more encouraging policies.