Friday, September 28, 2018 2:08 pm
As Nigeria’s population continues to increase at an estimated 200 million people, stakeholders in the agriculture space have called for innovative means of providing wholesome food such as Greenhouse.
It has become imperative for stakeholders involved across the agricultural value chains to ensure that the growing population do not lack basic foods such as vegetables and fruits among others.
Greenhouse is a modern farming technology that controls the air, water and sunlight that plants needs for optimum output.
Unlike Nigerian farmers, their counterparts in a country like Kenya have embraced the greenhouse “Elite” farming technology.
It was against this backdrop that Dizengoff West Africa (Nigeria) held its “Farmers Open Day’’ aimed at sensitising the public on innovations that would drive food sufficiency.
The event was held at the Greenhouse farm site of Best Foods Nigeria Ltd., located in Epe, Lagos where there were 20 greenhouses harbouring different types of peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables.
The greenhouse site is a partnership between the two firms to grow healthy and wholesome foods for Lagosians and Nigeria in general.
Mr Antti Ritvonen, Chief Executive Officer and Country Manager of Dizengoff, said that greenhouses was what Nigerian farmers needed to increase yield from limited space available.
Ritvonen said that farmers could get their investment back in 12 months because it could produce about 30 times more yield than on the same square meter in an open field farm setting.
“Investing in greenhouse in Nigeria is profitable and a healthy business that farmers can get their investment back in 12 months or 18 months.
“Greenhouse will produce up to 30 times more yield than on the same area of an open field and you can produce all year round and will not be at the mercy of rains or dry season because you can always keep growing your crops in your greenhouse.
“Dizengoff Greenhouse is a complete package that comes with the hybrid seeds, fertiliser, chemicals, training and an agronomist that will help manage the greenhouses for the best yield.
“It is very important for banks and governments at all levels to work out solutions for farmers if food sufficiency must be achieved,’’ he said.
Ritvonen also said that there was need for youths to have an understanding of what modern farming is all about because farming was regarded as for the old on the field by himself.
He said: “Young people need to accept farming as a business and Dizengoff is working together with banks, different state governments and institutions to come up with finance solutions for farmers generally not just on greenhouses.
Mr Emmanuel Ejewere, the Chairman of Best Foods Nigeria Ltd., said that Nigeria had a lot to do in terms of improving modern farming methods that would improve food quality and sufficiency.
Ejewere said that greenhouses in Nigeria was just about 4,000 whereas, a country like Kenya recorded about 172,000 greenhouses.
He said Kenya had recorded milestones and had become Africa’s biggest export of agricultural produce because 18 aircrafts containing flowers, tomato, peppers and other left the country daily to Europe.
“What we have here does not tell the full story. The full story will be told when you look at the global picture of Nigeria of how we are in the world’s agricultural space.
“Kenya has 175,000 greenhouses, while Nigeria has at the last count, about 4,000 of greenhouses of which about 50 per cent are not operating because they were bought and installed by government. In effect, Nigeria has such a short fall that is so embarrassing.
“What is important is that the population is growing at such a pace that agricultural output are unable to meet up, not just in quantity but in quality.
“Kenya is the biggest exporters of flowers, cucumber, hot pepper, tomatoes and cabbage to Europe. Everyday 18 aircrafts leave Kenya for Europe and the price of each produce is already labelled in pounds sterling on each of the produce,’’ he said.
Ejewere said that many supermarkets in the countries want international stardard but were worried about the quality of foods produced in Nigeria.
He also said there was the need for farmers to have a ready market to sell their quality produce.
“We have a situation in Lagos where many of the markets, including Mile 12 are at the process of demolition. When they are demolished, it is not the government that will build market.
“We have created this here and we are also considering setting up part of the value chain at a place in Abijan on the Epe road.
“We have built a mini Mile 12 that is fully air conditioned for wholesale and retail for farmers to come and sell their products as fresh as possible.
“All these are put in place to address the changes that are happening around the world and Nigeria must not be left out. It is said that when the first industrial revolution take place, Nigeria wasn’t there.
“The second and third took place, Nigeria wasn’t there but the forth one, we are in it. The first thing that assures you that we are in it is that today, Nigeria has more cellphones per capita than Europe,’’ he said.
He added: “Lagos does not have much land, but the little available should be maximised by adopting greenhouse technology which can produce 30 times as much as the same square meter of an open field.
“That is technology we are looking into. But I want to warn you, don’t go into greenhouse by calling somebody down the road to come and build a shield for you.
“Greenhouses represent technology and science. It is not energy, it is a question of using your brain and learning from what others have done.
“For those who want to go into greenhouses, don’t go wrongly and burn your fingers, you need to go rightly.
“We believe that it is profitable as long as you partner with the right organisation to tell you when you are right or wrong,’’ Ejewere said.
He also said that the banking industry was not agriculture-friendly which almost posed a hitch when the greenhouse farm was being set up.
An average greenhouse costs between N1.9 and N2.2 million.
Greenhouse development also received a boost when the Federal Government on Feb. 8, 2017 removed the 20 per cent import duty on greenhouses.