COVID-19: Agro-processors need working capital, palliative — Stakeholder

THE Chairman of Harvest Feeds Agro Processing GokeAdeyemi has said that the effect of the lockdown had depleted the working capital of agro processors, hence the need for palliatives becomes necessary.

Adeyemi while speaking with Nigerian Tribune said since the government had lifted the ban on inter-state movement, there is also need to assist processors on working so they could get all workers back to the factory.

He also urged the government to consider lifting the curfew so that trucks conveying raw materials for processing could easily move at night.

His words: “We need palliatives, for instance in my own company, we have up to 300 persons employed shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, and about 1000 indirect employment, but as soon as the lockdown started, everybody ran away, and when essential services were told to resume, we could not harbour everybody because there are no raw materials to use, all farmers left their farms.

“As I speak now, I have about 100 persons working in the factory now, the remaining 200 are still at home, but I carried the burden of paying salaries for 2 months even for those who were not working.

“The loss to my company in the past 3 months will be about N70 million, am not talking about the profit. So we need palliatives evidently.

“We need grants as processors, my working capital has crashed now, I need close to N120 million for my working capital, what I have now is less than N40 million, our working capital has crashed because I have to continue to spend money while the lockdown is still on.

“So, i need working capital injection into the business, the factories are there and they are 100 per cent ready, we need to mobilise working capital for us to do so.

“So, palliatives can come as replacing our working capitals so that we can get more people to come back to work. Government is saying they will pull 100 million people out of poverty, this is by getting them employed, they are not going to give them money for free, but through the private sector, you can generate employment for them and they will be out of poverty”.

He said palliatives could also come in form of providing constant power for the factories to ease the burden of using thousands of litres of diesel everyday in running the factories.

“There are other things they can also do, we still run our factories on generator, you can imagine the cost of running a whole factory on generator, we use close to 1300 kilowatt of energy per hour and that has to be provided for by running on generator where we consume over 3500 litres of diesel every 24 hours, so we need that kind of palliative to provide electricity for us,and working capital to replace our business that have suffered during the lockdown”, he said.

On movement of trucks conveying raw materials, Adeyemi said the midnight curfew is a serious challenge for logistics.

He said cassava for instance needs to be processed less that 36 hours after harvest, but with the current curfew, and the law of not allowing trucks move during the day, it will be difficult to beat the deadline for processing.

“In terms of business, logistic businesses in Nigeria normally move more in the night and there is curfew that starts by 10pm to 4am, so it seems like 6 hours has been removed from the time trucks move, and that is the time high volume of goods, agro products move properly.

“We have reduced the effectiveness of our logistics if the curfew is still there. It is still impacting heavily on business.

“Those of us in the agro processing sector, we have to deploy trucks to go and move cassava from various locations, and they move more in the night.

“In agro processing, we are not the type that store raw materials, our raw material is cassava and we have to process fresh, between the time of harvest and the time of processing should be less than 36 hours.

“So, there are hindrances for us, however, we know that in the course of time, maybe in one month the curfew will be relaxed and then we can have full movement”, he noted.



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