Psaltry International Limited (PIL) prides itself as an indigenous agro-allied company that produces high quality food grade cassava and laundry starch for local market and export. It also stands tall among companies that have made huge strides with funds from the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme initiated by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). CHINYERE OBIORA looks at the PIL’s success story and contributions to Nigeria’s economic grow
At the onset, the journey was considered a welcome distraction from the typical paper work that dotted the seminar sessions. But midway into this expedition, worrisome tunes emerged from the participants and even the tour organizers, CBN officials were caught murmurings and making unflattering remarks about the long distance and patchy road leading to the excursion destination, Psaltry International Limited (PIL), a cassava processing company on the outskirts of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. Packaged as part of activities for the annual CBN seminar for Business Editors and Finance Journalists held in Ibadan, it took great efforts by team members to overcome their strong urge to abandon the trip halfway. But wise counsel prevailed and the almost two hours drive finally emptied the media men and CBN officials into PIL’s 400 hectares of Cassava farmland situated at Alayide-Wasimi Village, Ado-Awaye, a sprawling farming community covering about 10,000 hectares of farmland in Oyo State. Suddenly, all the disquiet about the distance and rough road ebbed into excitement as the team came face to face with the thriving business outfit managed by a dogged female entrepreneur and PIL’s Managing Director, Mrs Oluyemisi Iranloye. In admiration, they savoured the excellent industry delivery from a dedicated Nigerian businesswoman who has braved all odds to make a huge success of her dreams. Listed among companies that benefited from CBN intervention funds through the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), the company has effectively deployed the facility to expand its agro-business; bring development to the host community; and assist in conserving the country’s depleted foreign reserves. Established in 2005 to market cassava produce, PIL has continued to extend its business horizon to incorporate farm development and production of food grade starch from cassava. Taking the CBN/FICAN team down memory lane, PIL’s Managing Director, Mrs Iranloye is grateful the CACS intervention fund has positively impacted and transformed her business. According to her, Psaltry’s success story is that of hard work and self-belief to help society through productive investment in agriculture. Giving further insights into how it all started, Mrs Iranloye said, “When we came here, the first thing we needed to do was build the farmers’ capacity for large scale production. Before our arrival here, the farmers were used to producing cassava on a small scale for local consumption with a huge chunk always left for goats to feed on. The reason being there was no industrial use for the produce. So, PIL started by teaching them how to do profitable business with cassava. Convinced the farmers could be relied upon for corporate business, we went further to train them on out-growers’ scheme. Again, certain these farmers could be trusted; I then approached the bank for a loan facility under CACS. “In our first expansion strategy, we went for an initial credit facility of N264 million through the CBN Agro business intervention funds which was fully repaid and a subsequent loan of N500 million”, Mrs Iranloye said, adding that with PIL’s help, 64 farmers got loans totaling N23,899,000 with 40 farmers receiving draw back while others were not that lucky. She said PIL was set up to promote productive farming business in rural areas by creating a production value chain for farm produce, using innovative processes. According to her, the first out-grower programme held in 2012 and it created a supply chain involving about 5,000 farm families with more than 2,000 registered and unregistered out-grower farm families, marketers, labourers, traders, transporters and retail input suppliers. Psaltry has two production lines – 20 tons per day starch factory plant opened in 2013 and an additional production line of 30 tons per day capacity set up in 2015 to meet the growing Customers’ demands and satisfaction. “The company’s asset base as at December 2015 was about $5million comprising the factory, farm land and equipment. In 2015, PIL generated up to $3.5million as revenue, saving the nation more than $7million in foreign exchange in the last two years. The ultimate plan is to save additional $26 million forex in the next three years”, she told tour team. Furthermore, “the company has provided employment for over 300 people, comprises 200 permanent staff and 100 temporary workers. It has networked about 1000 farmers with over 3000 hectares of cassava farm land under 50 kilometre radius to the factory and located in 12 villages.” The Managing Director said PIL has organised the farmers into groups subsumed in a relatively large clusters, adding that currently, there are six farming clusters around the factory within 50 kilometre radius. Aside providing agricultural extension training and support services; and coaching farmers on improved farming techniques, PIL also provides tractors hiring services, improved cassava varieties, herbicides and fertilizers to farmers. For her, it is heartwarming the farmers can now use e-wallet banking payment system that discourages them from carrying around large chunks of cash. Noteworthy also is the management’s close relationship with the farmers and giving a listening ear to their concerns, just as the Out-grower Scheme and products have impacted positively on PIL’s growth. Mrs Iranloye said positives from the company relationship with the farmers is that a farmer now makes an average of N40,000 more than he was making in 2012 with the same cost due to several technical trainings and extension support. So, to meet up with the expected production target, “PIL uses between 150-250 tons of cassava daily to produce the 50 tons per day plant capacity with its raw material principally sourced from three different means, the out-growers, company farms and independent marketers.” Currently, Psaltry has about 500 hectares of farmland as back up for the third party supply and it also produces high quality food grade cassava starch and laundry starch. To Mrs Iranloye, starch is among the abundant substances in nature, a renewable and almost unlimited resource used mainly as food. It is also chemically, physically and biologically convertible into many useful products. According to her, 2005 IITA report indicate starch is used to produce diverse products such as food, paper, textile, adhesives, beverages, confectionery, pharmaceuticals and building materials like tiles among others. So, in conformity with ISO 22000, the product of cassava starch requires a conscious adherence to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) in order to produce a safe and suitable starch for public use. As part of its social responsibility, PIL, in 2012, built a manually operated Borehole for Alayide village community which has only one stream that easily dries up during the dry season, just as the company donated in 2014 another borehole to Wasimi community whose only source of water was a stream that not only dries up seasonally but gets polluted during rainy season. She said the major challenges facing the company in the community include lack of infrastructural facilities and key among them being power and water, adding that government infrastructure support for industries is still very insignificant. “The company runs on generators, sinks bore-hole and constructs road leading to the factory. No bank will give a manufacturer funds to construct roads. So, there is infrastructure expenses a company bears that is not captured in the credit from the bank”, she explained. Insisting that government provides power and boreholes to the community, Mrs Iranloye said half of the villagers have elephantiasis, a situation that requires urgent attention. However, she is happy that PIL customers cut across Nigeria’s Food and Beverages Industry. These include: Nigerian Breweries Plc, with the highest per cent sales, followed by Nestlé Nigeria Plc and a member of the respected and trustworthy nutrition; Health and Wellness company, renowned world-wide for its high quality products; and Tropical Natural that also gets some per cent sales, among others. Besides these firms, Mrs Iranloye said PIL also receive requests from companies yet to come on board the production line. On its products’ high demand, the affable businesswoman said, “We can’t meet the growing demands anymore because even those not on our bills presently are begging us for supplies, with requests coming from as far as China. So, we are saving Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange. I must confess that the current restriction on forex is good for business and local industry growth as we are now pushed to do more. Though the price of dollar has gone up, we decided not increase our price, so that our customers like Nestle, Nigerian Breweries and others would continue to see the benefits of patronising local manufacturers.” In 2015, PIL struck a partnership deal with the Nigerian Breweries and International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC) with its forward sustainable clusters in Agric business through learning in Entrepreneurship Project (2SCALE) to optimise the cassava value chain for Nigerian small-holder farmers. It is collaboration among the parties to improve output of small-holder farmers and thus support economic development as well as promote inclusive growth in Africa. This enhances the farmers’ productivity and increases supply of high quality cassava roots to PIL, that provide industrial cassava starch for Nigerian Breweries to extract maltose syrup for use in the brewing process. Forefront gathered this collaboration has also impacted on the Nigerian Breweries socio-economic contributions through the agricultural sector and support for its drive to achieve Heneken’s goal of sourcing locally 60 per cent of its raw materials needs in Africa by year 2020. Other institutions partnering with Psaltry include IITA (Research to Nourish Africa), Cassava Adding Value for Africa Phase II (CAVA II), BOP Innovation Center, USAID and ICRA. For its outstanding performance and contributions to the nation’s socio-economic growth and development, PIL and its Managing Director have continued to receive recognition and meritorious awards locally and internationally. The honour list include Federal Government Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) Programme (AGRIFEST) award for Outstanding ATA supporter Award (Public Sector) in Nigeria; Federal Government Agricultural Transformation Agenda Programme (AGRIFEST) recognition of Mrs Iranloye for her contribution to ATA in Nigeria (2015); United States Department of State honour for the Managing Director as a leading female entrepreneur in Nigeria; and First Bank Nigeria, Plc recognition of PIL for the success of its outgrowers’ programme among others The Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) was introduced by CBN to fast-track development of the agricultural sector through the provision of credit facilities to large-scale commercial farmers at a single digit interest rate. It was also initiated to enhance national food security by increasing food supply and effecting lower agricultural produce and products prices, thereby promoting low food inflation, reduce the cost of credit in agricultural production to enable farmers exploit the untapped potentials of the sector and increase output. Other objectives are to generate employment; diversify Nigeria’s revenue base; raise the level of foreign exchange earnings; and provide input for manufacturing and processing on a sustainable basis.