In Nigeria, while agriculture is a popular sector and no doubt an important one it still has a lot of growth potential. The government has introduced several grants to encourage farmers to go into farming but there’s still a lot to do when it comes to helping farmers, especially with the importation of materials and machinery needed to farm and grow crops.
CEO and Founder of AGX Group, Mr Tobi Delly was discussing the nature of the agricultural sector in Nigeria, how it has evolved in the past years, the challenges that are being faced and what still needs to be done to encourage a boom in the Agricultural sector.
AGX is a group of businesses that deal with agricultural export of both ready-made products and raw materials from every area of the country, agriculture education, and agricultural real estate.
Even though the CEO studied Microbiology in Obafemi Awolowo University, his career took a different path as he got a job working for traders of Africa where locally discovered metals such as copper, coal, tin ore and agricultural produce were sold to various countries outside Nigeria.
His interest in agriculture was kindled as agricultural products were easier to source, unlike metals. Through his network of traders and farmers, he started a WhatsApp group where they could all share the current price of the commodities and that was how AGX started its growth and expanded to have subsidiaries.
Like most successful companies, AGX came into the system to solve a problem. Delly while working at his job discovered that when a client wanted to purchase a particular product or commodity from Nigeria it took days to get the price of that commodity and it was slowing business down.
Opportunities in agriculture and the target market
The focus of AGX Group is exporting agricultural products which it does through one of its subsidiaries AGX Africa Limited.
“Agricultural produce generates more income, in most cases double the cost of production plus profit for the farmers than it would if the goods were sold locally. It can also bring about foreign exchange which would boost the nation’s GDP,” Delly said.
Currently AGX ships Agricultural commodities to Georgia, Malaysia, China, South-East Asian countries, and Middle Eastern countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India. However, in terms of foodstuff, AGX concentrated on where there is a large concentration of Nigerians in the diaspora like from 200 people and above.
AGX also owns farmlands through its subsidiary, AGX Farmland Estate Limited. The subsidiary buys and sells farmlands to individuals and families that partner with AGX farmlands.
In addition to AGX Farmland Estate, the company also has AGX Global, its logistics subsidiary which offers services in freight forwarding, certification, quality analysis export documentation for Nigerian exporters.
The company also has an educational centre, Lagos school of export management, a platform where students are taught international trade and everything about exporting from Nigeria. They also take classes remotely on social media platforms and hold physical classes in hotels for students who would like a face to face training.
“In comparison to other agriculture-based companies, AGX has a different strategy. We are not only concerned with exporting crops but put a lot of focus on making sure that interested farmers have available farmland for them to grow their crops,” he said.
Challenges and government’s role
“There is no job without its challenges,” he says. “The most challenging part of our job is the people aspect and remote work. It is easier to give staff instructions and get results when they’re with you in the same working space than when they are on the field.”
He says the government still needs to do a lot of work in the agriculture sector, especially regarding encouraging more young Nigerians to go into the profession. In his experience, many of the farmers that are employed on the farms are young migrants from other countries.
He also commended the existing agricultural banks and funds created by the government to help agriculture but he maintains that these funds are not easily accessible to farmers as their system is archaic and so the purpose of their establishment is not being satisfied.
Delly also spoke about the import duties placed on machinery needed by farmers to carry out their work on the farm. “The import and customs duties for clearing some of these machinery cost more than three times the price and it discourages farmers from acquiring them for use”
Delly says he plans to start AGX tech platform, a fintech company that would help Agricultural exporters in their activities regarding international trade.