When you cross the streets, walk in parks and stroll in the Sun; as long as people know you’re a farmer, they believe you are rich, self employed and comfortable. Too many people out there believe farmers are wealthy and comfortable people. Gradually, the belief sinks into them- they want to do the Agric-business. It’s not that agric-business is not profitable, but most farmers are playing the endurance game. They make it big now, yes. By next harvest, they’ve lost all- it’s a cycle that can consume even the fittest of investors.
We have compiled here some things practicing farmers wish they knew before putting their time, money, energy and brain into the business. These are the opinions of some farmers we interviewed and not that of the ARMI Nigeria.
- I WISHED I KNEW AGRIC BUSINESS IS NOT ABOUT PASSION ONLY:
In every job, passion can take you to the peak, but in Agric-business, there is something more important, it’s called knowledge. Yes, Zeal without knowledge is a runaway horse. I’ve met some people who seriously want to invest in Agriculture, but each time, I tell them to relax- seek knowledge first. By the time they learn a bit of their passion, their zeal does or they invest cautiously.
- I WISH I KNEW WHY MOST FARMERS START WITH PRODUCTION:
Check this out, most of those you know who are into the agric-business are farm owners; they are into either crop Production or livestock Production. The question is why? The Value Chain of Agriculture is so broad that according to the ARMI stats, Production is only about one-seventh of the chain. Yet, that’s where 70% of farmers take solace. Well, this is because it is the cheapest to go into, but the least profitable and the most time consuming. Some farmers wished they knew about Agro-processing, Packaging and Marketing, Farm mechanization, Mobilization of labourers, Exportation, Agro-Media, Agro Real estate and so many other Agricultural Value Chain.
- I WISH I KNEW THAT MECHANISATION HERE DIFFERS FROM DEVELOPED COUNTRIES:
Some farmers go into Agriculture believing, it is now easier with the advent of disc plough and harrows, planters, sprayers, harvester, and many other farm machines. It’s not false that those things exist and are being utilized in developed countries. However, the machines have not had the same effect in Nigeria and Africa at large. For more understanding, read the article on “THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST FARM MECHANISATION”.
- I WISH I KNEW THAT REDUCING COST OF PRODUCTION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN INCREASING YIELD:
I have watched so many Agric-business owners waste away trying to employ the best agronomists for the purpose of a better yield. Some even make use of expatriates from Israel, Philippines, Malaysia and so on. While this is a wonderful step and sign of belief in the system, it has worked only for a few- the most wealthy. As a beginner, I discovered that reducing cost helped me more. Not spending too much on labourers, buying farm inputs in bulk at one-go, carrying out only the necessary cultural practices were some of the things that helped reduce cost. At the end, my yield was relatively good; although it could have been better, I was not on the negative quadrant of the graph.
- I WISH I KNEW THAT FARM MANAGERS HAVE PERSONAL FARMS TOO:
A lot of business owners employ farm managers and supervisors forgetting that if the managers are as good as they claim, they should have their own farms too. You can cheat anybody working for you, but never your farm manager because he can decide to use your farm inputs on his own farm, he can decide to grow his business and abandon yours. Make your farm manager your friend, win his trust; and like a sheep, he’ll follow you to slaughter.
- I WISH I KNEW THAT MY PRESENCE CANNOT BE NEGOTIATED:
When I first started Agriculture, I employed a trusted and qualified friend as my farm supervisor. I restricted myself to home and office, since the report from the farm was good. The day I finally visited, guilt was staring me in the eye. No farm manager will send a poor report to his boss. You need to go there and see things for yourself every time. Farm managers go through more than they can handle alone, your presence eases the labourers, your employee and yourself.
There are a few who would disagree with some statements here, let’s hear from you too. As a practicing farmer, what are the things you wished you knew before going into the agric-business.