Nigeria spends an estimated amount of $1.3 billion on the importation of dairy products and now, the government’s target is to double the milk production over the next three to four years in order to meet up with domestic consumption and export. With a population higher than 180 million people, the country is currently going through low local milk production, while importing more than 70 percent of its dairy products. An average cow in Nigeria is said to produce 1 kg of milk a day, showing there is a long way to go before reaching self-sufficiency. The government has identified that what is required, amongst other things, is a more formal ranching system to improve processes, yield and quality, to extract higher value.
In a bid to find a sustainable roadmap for this multi-billion dollar market, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mr. Lars Loekke Rasmussen and President Muhammadu Buhari, in the company of a high-powered Nigerian delegation from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, held talks in Denmark with Arla Foods on the development of the dairy sector in Nigeria, last week.
Arla Foods is one of the world’s largest dairy companies. The visit is the company’s second milestone in its declared commitment to invest in local production in Nigeria and help create a more sustainable local dairy industry, following the presentation of its signed letter of intent (LOI) to Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. Arla’s LOI was presented in February 2016 at the same meeting where Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen, signed a letter of intent with the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture to cooperate on the development of the local agriculture sector in Nigeria.
The Nigerian delegation had representatives of the key departments responsible for dairy development in the country comprising of Dr. Gideon Mshelbwala, Director, Veterinary Services and Pest Control; Dr. Mrs. Egejuru Eze, Director. Animal Production and Husbandry as well as Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister, Dr. Andrew Kwasari and Hon. Saleh Hassan, Member of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture.
While welcoming the delegation during a tour of one of Arla’s dairy farms, Steen Hadsbjerg, Senior Vice President and Head of Arla Foods for sub-Saharan Africa, stated that Nigeria is key to Arla’s ability to sell its farm owners’ milk in West Africa, in the future. Hadsbjerg declared that they “understand that developing the Nigerian local dairy industry to create a sustainable value chain that contributes to food security, local jobs and prosperity are important issues for the government. The Nigerian government welcomes companies and initiative that will help this development.”
“The purpose of this visit is for Arla to understand the challenges in developing a sustainable dairy sector in Nigeria and how Arla can most effectively contribute to the solution. It is also for Arla to share our knowledge and experience about how our farmer owners have organised and developed their value chain. The result will benefit Arla’s opportunities whilst ensuring the good development of the dairy market in Nigeria for the benefit of all parties,” Hadsbjerg stated further.
The Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, said “this visit has been an eye opener for me. Arla is an organised cooperative that has done very well and work in a sustainable manner. Arla is run by the farmers themselves and to protect the interest of their farmer colleagues and ensure better returns on their milk, they set a higher standard for their milk quality than expected by the government.”
He continued by adding that “we hope for a partnership with Arla and knowledge sharing that will help us empower Nigerian farmers who face multiple challenges with logistics, infrastructure, organisation, quality and productivity. We could definitely see Arla as a partner to help build a sustainable dairy industry in Nigeria from the very beginning based on its globally proven concept of ‘Dairy enterprise of the farmers,’ for the farmers by the farmers.”
Speaking during a tour of the Arla facility in Copehangen, the Honourable Mr. Hassan Saleh, commended Arla Foods for its high production standard saying, “Arla Foods has demonstrated it is a very organised company and their processes are impeccable, resulting in high quality products. I am very impressed with what I have seen and I believe that Arla will be a good partner to help us improve our milk production and make it more sustainable.”
During the visit, the Nigerian delegation learned about Arla’s international businesses and the important role that Nigeria plays in Arla’s strategy. The delegation also visited one of the company’s cooperative farm owners to see how the farm quality programme ‘Arlagaarden’, meaning Arla Farm, ensures high standards on the farm and a fresh milk dairy to see how Arla works with quality systems to deliver high quality products to consumers across the world.
Members of the Nigerian delegation also attended round table discussions with Arla and other Danish food and agriculture companies, where they shared knowledge about farm and dairy technology solutions and discussed potential partnerships in order to help develop the Nigerian dairy industry. The visit of the Nigerian delegation to Arla Foods in Demark is therefore a bold expression of the Nigerian government’s interest in learning from Arla and how it has organised its production.