In furtherance of its goal of spearheading the rice revolution and ensure the sustainability of food sufficiency initiative of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Popular Farms and Mills Limited today inaugurated a strategic multi-billion Naira Rice Mill expansion of 140,000 MTs per year milling capacity as well as laid the foundation for 44,000 MTs per year Sesame Processing Plant at the Challawa Unit of Popular Farms and Mills, a subsidiary of the Stallion Group – Kano.
A member of the West African Conglomerate – Stallion Group, Popular Farms and Mills Limited is renowned as a leading stakeholder in the Nigeria’s food sector with commercial interest in Rice Production, where it currently has installed capacity for 430,000 metric tons with planned expansion to 1.5 million tons of paddy rice per annum making the company the biggest player and making the needed positive difference in the Nigerian economy and the food value chain.
The event which attracted dignitaries from both public sector and the private sector had the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbe, represented by Mallam Munir Mohammed, the Emir of Kano, His Royal Majesty, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi 11, represented by Alhaji Yusuf Ibrahim Madakin, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, represented by Mr. Hassan Tom, a Director, Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Shehu, permanent secretary, Kebbi State Ministry of Agriculture, representative of the Executive Governor of Kebbi, and Ambassador Mrs. Kupoluyi among other dignitaries.
Welcoming dignitaries to the well attended event, Mr. Amit Rai, Managing Director, Popular Farms, acknowledged the meticulous and inclusive approach of the Nigerian government under the leadership of President, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe and his team of experts at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, with regards to the agriculture sector. He also commended the government at all levels for the positive initiative and robust policies the support the agri business in Nigeria.
Speaking on the planned expansion, Mr. Rai stated that over 80,000 farmers across paddy and Sesame a agric business while saving the country the needed foreign exchange, noting that over 1500 direct and indirect jobs will be created. The initiative he added will also will further boost the Popular farms’ initiative in empowering farmers in the rice value chain to become better business people with strong technical and business knowledge.
Indeed, Popular farms according Mr Rai is currently in direct contact with over 40,000 farmers and approximately 1000 rice cooperative societies across the country, and with its flagship training programmes for intensive farming at no cost to the farmers and with maximum productivity thereby imparting technical know how in Rice Farming to over 36,000 out grower through its well established 16 (Sixteen “Popular Aggregation Centre’s” in Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Gombe, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano Zamfara and Kwara.
Speaking at the event, Stallion Group CEO Anant Badjatya spoke on the commitment of Stallion Group to the growth of Nigerian economy while contributing to government’s backward integration. He further spoke on the drive of Popular Farms to do things right hence the groundbreaking ceremony of the project in Kano as the “Goal of Stallion Group and Popular Farms is to spearhead and lead the Rice Revolution in Nigeria” .
The Group CEO, Mr. Badjatya commended the inventiveness of President Muhammadu Buhari and the policy direction of the Agriculture sector been driven by the Honourable Minister, Chief Audu Ogbe and the Central Bank of Nigeria led by Godwin Emefiele, remarking that Popular Farms rice is already making the difference and bringing positive benefit to the Nigerian Economy.
He urged the Federal Government not to relent in its quest to provide an enabling environment for agric sector who in turn help in reducing unemployment and generate revenue for the government. In this regard, he lamented the unabated smuggling of rice via the countries porous borders and praised the efforts of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) for it’s fight against this scourge. Mr. Badjatya said the group is steadfastly in support of all efforts aimed at stopping the smuggling menace. He mentioned the group gave some 150 vehicles to Nigerian Customs Services through RIMIDAN association at a discount of N250 million in a single transaction as its contribution towards war against smuggled rice. Speaking further, the Group CEO noted that the menace of smuggling not only affects Nigeria’s potentials in rice, but also extends to the smuggling of new and used cars which is currently happening with impunity, thereby putting at risk thousands of much needed Nigerian jobs.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, represented by Mallam Munir Mohammed praised Popular Farms and Mills Limited for its ingenuity and contributions not only to the agric sector in Nigeria but the efforts and commitment to reducing unemployment and empower farmers. He pledged the Ministry’s commitment to continue to support Popular Farms as according to him “what we saw today is in line with federal government’s policy of self sufficiency in Rice production” On the issue of smuggling the minister’s representative assure that “government at all levels are working on several options, including diplomacy, towards curbing the menace so as to ensure the issue does not escalate more than this” and requested that that company continue on that contributory part as the government appreciate their effort a great deal.
The Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, represented by Hassan Tom, speaking in the same vein, commended Popular Farms and Mills Limited for making effective and positive difference in the agric sector with strong investment and commitment to Nigeria’s economy “l have seen what Popular Farms means in terms of Rice Production and the good relationship with farmers and the community, and the how they continue to empower farmers at their sixteen centres all over Nigeria and it is in tandem with federal government’s policy on agriculture and the improvement of the economy” He further pledged the CBN’s commitment to continue to support Popular Farms and requested the firm to come forward for any assistance that may further their investment and contributions to Nigeria.
The elated representative of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Ibrahim on sighting the huge investment and the massive factory put in place by Popular Farms, thanked Popular Farms and the Management of Stallion Group for choosing Kano for such massive investment which is touching the lives of the people not only in Kano but across the country. According to him, the fact that farmers are benefiting from the investment and backward integration initiative of the firm speaks volume of the importance of Popular Farms to Nigeria. “What I have witnessed today makes it clear that this company is a blessing to Nigeria and deserves the support of the everyone”, the Emir insisted.
On his part, the representative of Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Mohammed Lawal Shehu commended Popular Farms for making such a huge investment in Nigeria, and government at all levels must support the company ” l believe government should support the effort of Popular Farms because of the trust they have in Nigeria; and we in Kebbi State look forward to them company to the state,” he concluded.
Dignitaries were later conducted round the state of the art facility and infrastructure put in place by Popular Farms and Mills Limited after the groundbreaking ceremony and the cutting of tape to commence the expansion of the facilities by the representative of the Honourable Minister Mallam Munir Mohammed.
The dignitaries while pleased with the sheer size of the investment and quality of the facility were hugely alarmed by the huge pile of stocks of both raw material and finished products which were slow to move due to menace of smuggled rice. Mallam Mohammed said that, “ this makes it imperative for government to double its efforts to stem smuggling”.
Popular Farms and Mills Limited established 16 Agricultural Centres which are located in the rice producing states of Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Gombe, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Zamfara and Kwara which is primarily to help in the backward integration activities, especially in training, knowledge acquisition and dissemination, input distribution, quality test, transit storage, certified seeds and fertilizers enhancement.