Agriculture more lucrative than white collar jobs – Ebonyi commissioner

Chief Moses Ogodoali Nomeh  has been Ebonyi state commissioner for agriculture right from 2015 to date. In this interview with Amarachukwu EgwuAgha in Abakaliki, he explains how agriculture is the best alternative to white collar jobs.

You are a commissioner as well as full-time farmer. Take us into agric business in the state.

Let me begin by saying that we have Ogoani Farm which produces rice right from the farm to processing. We have not actually gone into industrialisation; people think that it is only when you mill rice and package them that you are into industrialisation; that is not really so. Industrialisation goes beyond processing. What we are doing in Ebonyi state is that we produce rice and process them. Industrialisation is the next level when we would produce the rice, process it into finished product. When you go industrialisation, you start turning the rice chaffs and the threshes into another material. You can use that further to produce rice, wine, energy and gas. Right now, we are into rice production and  processing. We are also into poultry production. We produce broilers, layers and their eggs. We also process cassava into garri. We have not also gone industrialisation in cassava processing. When we go into that, we would start by processing starch and also process indomie and other products of cassava; that’s what we are aiming at now. We have the intention to process palm production which is a already in the pipeline. We have already procured the machines, when we finish the installation, we would be processing palm productions. We also want to go into milling to process feeds for poultry, dogs and pigs. These are our targets for now.

How did you come about this farming experience?
I have been a farmer for long. I passed through the School of Agriculture in Ikwo where I studied Agriculture before it became a college of education, thereafter, I went to the university to studyPolitical Science.

How is your poultry farm doing?
I built my poultry farm last year. Before then, I was producing my poultry in thevillage before I built this largest poultry farm here in Abakaliki. In March this year, I was suspended from office as commissioner. I resolved that I wouldn’t like to be applicant, so I came and built this poultry farm here in Abakaliki. It has the capacity of accommodating 5,000 birds. I put in 5,000 broilers after building it and sold the broilers after six weeks because I fed them very well and they grew rapidly. In December last year, I produced another 5,000 broilers. I produced three trenches in that last year; for instance, I produced between April and June; July and October and between October and December. This year, in February 6, I took the  stock of 2,000 layers. 
The layers commenced laying eggs by July 5. The layers lay between 32 and 35 crates of eggs and we sell each crate for N700. Also, we sell the broilers in kilogrammes because we don’t want people to be cheated. We sell a kilo at N1,500. So, if a bird weighs three kilos, we sell it N4,500. If a bird weighs two kilos, we sell it for N3,000. At six weeks, a bird is supposed to be 1.3 kilos. The broilers consume feed more than the layers. The broilers at this stage consume nine bags  per day but the layers consume seven bags per day.

As a full time farmer and commissioner, how do you combine both responsibilities?

My job is basically supervision. I have three attendants in my poultry farm; they are the ones who do the job. In the village, I have eight workers inmy cassava and rice mills. They process rice and garri there. My job is just supervision because the soul of every business is supervision because if you don’t supervise your business, you won’t be sure ofwhat you are doing.

How do you manage the mortality rate of these birds?
Every business has its own challenge. In poultry production, there istendency to have 10% mortality. We brought in 2,000 birds here but weare having about 1,600 birds. We have incurred mortality, no doubt. The mortality is usually very high during the dry season when the zinc is unusually hot. At times, we have less than 10% mortality, it all depends on  management.

So, what is the best weather for poultry production?
Rainy season and harmartan are best weathers for poultry production because the birds don’t want too much heat and they don’t want toomuch cold. The birds need average weather.

What is this rumour that rice husk can be used to produce drinks?
Yes, it is true. It is used to produce hot drinks. There is a wine a Chinese national brought here in which one bottle was sold for N500,000; It was produced from rice husk. Everything in rice is eatable including thethresh which is used to feed the cattle and goats. That thresh can also beused to produce drinks, gas etc.

In what ways has farming business helped you as an individual?
I told you that I started full-scale farming business from March last year and I have been practising it because every year, I raise broilers and sell it at Christmas period and it gives me money. Last year, for instance, I made eight million naira. I used three million to raise it because I am into proper agro-business. I sold 8, 000 broilers last year; after paying my workers, I had nine million naira left. It has helped me a lot because I have a second address. That means politicians must have a second address because it makes one to be more responsible than ever. 
That means you may not attend so many meetings except the ones you want to attend. I encourage young people to go into agriculture because there is so much money in it. I makeN270,000 a month from poultry alone and I think it is enough to sustaina graduate and we are not even at our peak yet. As a matter of fact, I want tohave seven pens in this farm. If you have seven pens in this farm and you make N200,000 in each pen, you will be paying yourself N600,000 ina month.

The state government has the largest poultry farm in the country that has gone into comatose and you are doing well in your private poultry farm. Is there no missing link?

The place is working. When I came on board, there was nothing happening in that place but before I left during the first tenure of this administration, we had 5,000 broilers and we had 3,000 layers because we gave it to the Catholic church to manage. When I was there, we hatched 7,000 day old chicks because we have hatchery there. We raised 3,000 broilers before we handed it to the church. My intention is that we must go into  full capacity. Our target is to ensure that the place has the capacity to feed the people.

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