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Nigerian Breweries partners agric ministry on sorghum


By Siaka Momoh

ABUJA – Nigerian Breweries Plc has is partnering with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on the development and commercialisation of sorghum as part of its sustainability programme.

The company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the partnership with the agric ministry.

Speaking at the ceremony, which took place at the Minister’s conference room in Abuja recently, the Chairman of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Chief Kola Jamodu said that the company has invested heavily over the years in the research and development of hybrid sorghum aimed at improving sorghum productivity through breeding and selection programme.

He expressed optimism that the partnership with the ministry signified by the signing of the MOU will further expand and strengthens the company’s efforts in developing the sorghum value chain in Nigeria.

Jamodu pledged the commitment of Nigerian Breweries to deploy the high yield hybrid sorghum seeds for large scale commercial production to support the agriculture transformation agenda of the federal government. He commended the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina for his focus and commitment in driving the agriculture transformation agenda, pointing out that the initiative has recorded commendable success so far.

He said Nigeria has no business dependent on food importation hence the need for backward integration. He stated that the ban on barley importation in the 1980s and 1990s made the company to seek for local alternatives; this was what formed the basis for the research into local alternatives. Even after the ban was lifted, the chairman said the company maintained its stand on sourcing local substitute for barley.

As a result of the backward integration which he described as “the only way we can create jobs,” Jamodu stated that 250,000 jobs have been created as a result of the introduction of the new hybrid seeds.

The journey, according to Jamodu, started when the Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr Nicolaas Vervelde – who believes firmly in local sourcing of raw material – constituted a team that researched into the hybrid sorghum seeds. “We are a company that keeps innovating and not relenting in our efforts in developing alternative raw material inputs.”

He enjoined the Minister to put in place a sustainable strategy that would ensure that the MOU and partnership outlive the signatories.

Responding, Dr Adesina welcomed the partnership with Nigerian Breweries and thanked the company for its efforts in developing the sorghum value chain, especially the research and development of hybrid sorghum seeds. He also applauded the commitment of Jamodu to the development of the country’s economy through his selfless service at the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and as a member of the National Economic Management Team.

The Minister, who described himself as “a great fan of Maltina” (one of the products of Nigerian Breweries) said agriculture, is serious business because elsewhere like in the US “farmers are some of the richest people around” pointing out that we have no business importing food because we have all the potentials – sunshine, cheap labour, diverse ecological environment and rivers – to be self-sufficient.

He applauded the research done by the company which produced the hybrid seeds that opened new windows of opportunities for Nigerian farmers because sorghum is no longer a subsistence seed, but one needed by industries “which is one of the best ways in creating jobs for Nigerians.”

By adding value to Nigerian farmers, Adesina also commended the company for its ongoing research in using cassava syrup to replace sugar. The hybrid seeds increased farmers yield from 0.5 tonnes to 4 million metric tonnes in less than two years and presently 2.5 million farmers will have access to the seeds as the Ministry and Nigerian Breweries organise them into buying clusters where they can have easy access to purchase the seeds.

The minister reiterated his commitment to the agriculture transformation agenda and the preparedness of the Ministry to involve credible stakeholders in the development of the sorghum seed sector, as well as provide seed companies access to finance through the Seed Venture Capital Fund (SVCF).

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