Agribusiness Opportunities in Nigeria: Why You Don’t Have to Fail

Culled from AfricanFarmer Mogaji’s presentation at Covenant Capital Seminar titled ‘The Untapped Agricultural Potential of Nigeria’

Looking at the history and development of agriculture in Nigeria, it is not a coincidence that virtually all our past Presidents and Heads of State had passion for agriculture; this is not surprising as the state of oil sector in our economy was never so encouraging. With that understanding, you may agree that it is high time we went back to the drawing board to explore the gains of agriculture in order to fix our crawling economy.

We need to work together to fix our economy, but, how do we fix it? Agriculture is the way to fix it, and if your interest is already being aroused, below are some “food for thought” in Agriculture that may stimulate business idea(s) for you in your bid to make a business opportunity out of agriculture:

  1. Prohibited items: Do you know that Nigeria imports about One Hundred and Fifty Billion U.S. Dollar worth of rice every year?

It may interest you to also know that the Federal Government has made a drastic move to stop rice importation by putting in place measures which will give the local rice farmers opportunity to develop rice production in the country, so what do you intend to make of that?

  1. Untapped land opportunities: Are you aware that the river basin development project is in every State and offers the opportunity of access to several untapped land? Accessing this is not difficult as people think it is. All you need to do is to go to the Ministry of Agriculture and ask for the Department for the River Basin Project, they will guide you on how to access the lands. Most of these lands have irrigation facility that allows you to wet your crops in and out of the season, that is, wet and dry seasons. This benefit from the government has continued to be untapped because people are not aware of it. Some of the irrigation projects are found in Iseyin, Oyo State, and what more? Over seven hundred thousand acres of land have not been used by anybody! In Sepete, Saki local government, Oyo State, there are over three hundred hectares of land too there lying fallow and waiting for you to leverage on. The government also has irrigated lands in Jigawa State, Kwara State and so on that are waiting for you to leverage on.
  2. Untapped crops opportunities: There are many of them, but here are few among the list:                              a. Corn: Do you know that corn is one the untapped crops in Nigeria? Yes, it is true that corn is usually scarce between November and March, but do you know that the opportunity in corn lies in that very fact? Are you aware that with the help of irrigation which is readily available on government lands, this problem can be solved and you can produce corn all year round? Here is another food for thought: over sixty trailers loaded with corns supply Ketu market on daily basis for six months, yet supply is always lower than demand!

Before you finish saying “wow”, are you also aware that corn has a broad value chain? For instance, the leaves of the maize can be shredded to feed livestock or be used for decoration, dried corn is also included in producing poultry and fish feeds, and you can also process your corn to other finished products; one of such products is sweet corn- are you even aware that despite the fact that sweet corn can grow very well in Nigeria, there is no company producing it in our country?

Are you also aware that a rough estimate of the market price of maize grains is usually high during dry season which is in most cases towards the middle of the year- because of shortage of rain?

b. Tomatoes: This is also one of the untapped agricultural crops in Nigeria because every mid-year, most especially in the months of May, June and July, the price of a basket of tomatoes usually increases to about four times the normal price due to lack of water and some other environmental factors. In fact, some of the value chains in tomatoes that remain untapped also include tomato juice, ketchup, and tomato pastes. You can explore any of those opportunities and create a niche for yourself.

c. Onions: Some people have a notion that onions can grow only in the North! That is untrue, because onions can be cultivated anywhere in Nigeria. To lay that age long fable to rest, a growing research of onions was conducted in Osun State and it grew well thereby proving that it can be grown in any part of the Country.

If you are beginning to think of an opportunity in this line, here is a fact you might also wish to confirm: September and October are months we usually experience high cost of onions because a basket of onions will usually rise to about twice the normal price thereby opening a floodgate of importation of onions from abroad. Now, what can you make out of this? One of the simple wisdom tips is to leverage on this period, and on onion cultivation.

d. Cassava: Do you believe that in the hinterland of Nigeria (most especially in the suburban area of Saki, Oyo State), cassava is in abundance and even wasting, but the price of garri is ever going up? Clear contradictions right, but that is the truth! Whether we like it or not, cassava production will never reduce in Nigeria because the need for cassava products is increasing daily, even with the value chains. Processing industries like Matnam and other processing factories are operating at just 40% capacity because they are not getting enough cassava they need for production in their company. Research reveals that cassava stems sell better than even the cassava tuber, because farmers always want to get stem for production. Just in case you need to explore further benefits of cassava plantation, it may interest you to know the other value chains in cassava including garri, cassava flour, starch, animal feed and so on.

e. Oil palm: This can be called retirement insurance. It is called ‘the tree of money’ because none of its products is useless, so if you invest in oil palm, you can be sure that you should get value for every part of your palm trees.

Meanwhile, cocoa production is also close to oil palm. There are species of cocoa that mature within 2 years now. Multitrex has a massive cocoa processing factory; therefore, they need lots of cocoa to meet up with their customers’ demands.

f. Rubber: This is huge, just like cocoa and oil palm production. It is a lifetime investment. Many people are not really seeing the opportunities in this, as it remains untapped in the south. You can create time to make a detailed research on its production.

g. Vegetables: This is one of the projects that federal government will not be assisting in terms of forex because people eat lots of vegetables daily, and what more? Cucumber matures in just 45 days. Another opportunity is the fluted pumpkin (ugwu) which is popularly considered as a wonder source of money possibly because of its large scale demand, and you may be delighted to know that from November to April, fluted pumpkin is sold at massively expensive amount.

h. Rice: Further to what has already been stated about rice, it is no longer news that the Federal Government is putting in a lot of resources in rice production, because it is the most acceptable food in the country. Although, the major setbacks in it are birds’ invasion, squirrel bits, and pests.

i. Yam: This is also a lucrative agribusiness when considered and it has a huge value chain.

j. Untapped livestock opportunities: This is also a big business channel that many people in Nigeria have not really explored. Recently, the Federal Government placed a ban on the importation of frozen livestock due to the hazards that the products have. This signals an opportunity for you because you can leverage on that ban to create a local market for yourself. Remember too that Nigeria has over 30 holidays in a year and that is exclusive of private parties and ordinary market demand for livestock.


So, why do agribusiness projects fail?

The opportunities listed above are mouth-watering, but you may be uninterested because you have heard tales of failed Agribusiness than otherwise. So, why do some agribusiness fail and what can you do as a person with interest in Agribusiness? Here is a golden note:

“When opportunities come calling in agribusiness don’t rush into it”

That is not to say that you should not go for it, what is simply being suggested is that you should take your time to do the necessary calculations and research before going into an agribusiness.

“Google farming” without the practical knowledge is also part of the reasons agricultural projects fail- because some of the research findings online are based on the peculiarity of a different environment and as soils are different, so will be the research conclusions be different too. Furthermore, you must imbibe going for agribusiness training so as to increase your knowledge (for instance, The Federal Institute of Industrial Research organizes training in wide range of subjects regularly that you can benefit from). Other than that, there are basic things that are learnt “hands on” the job and from asking those already into that line of business.

Another issue is the “big farm syndrome”. By implication, some people dream of starting big at all cost without knowing that the bigger the farm, the more the challenges.

Other than the above, you may also have to deal with the problem of “market amputation”. This is because there are cabals in agriculture which is even worse than in the oil sector, and if you do not come to terms with this on time so as to create measures to deal with it, it may lead to dashed hopes.

Finally, you need to understand the market and the market linkages before you go into production.


How to invest in agribusiness?

The simple answer is for you to define the purpose of your investment (this is because some people venture into agriculture without a purpose), start small but be ready to grow big because it is better to start small and then scale up. Leverage on the existing farms (It is better to start by leasing a farm and then move up from there) – warehousing is also a good form of investment in Agribusiness. In conclusion, keep yourself up to date about the latest developments in agriculture.



Having highlighted the opportunities in the Agricultural sector in Nigeria, and also given an explanation on why some agribusinesses fail and why you don’t have to fail, you may be ready to take on the challenge of exploring one of the opportunities listed, so, here is a closing thought that we will have you meditate on:

“Whatever you do in agriculture is profitable if you get the dynamics right. So engage yourself in a market driven production.”