Access to credit facilities critical to reducing post-harvest losses for African farmers, says Indian exhibitor

25/05/2017
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UPL Limited, an Indian company based in Mumbai, is one of the international firms attending the ongoing 52nd Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Ahmedabad, India, for the first time.

Jessica Rebello is the Manager, Branding & Communications, Global Portfolio Management, of the company.

She is particularly delighted to be part of Meetings with the theme: “Transforming Agriculture for Wealth Creation in Africa”.  Her company has been collaborating with farmers in Africa for the past 25 years and participated in the India & Africa: Partners in Growth, an Exposition on Opportunities and Technologies for Collaboration exhibition organized on the sidelines of the 2017 Annual Meetings.

In this interview, Rebello, who was particularly pleased that Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB, visited her booth, speaks about her company’s experience and the future of agriculture in Africa. Excerpts.

What do you think of the theme of the conference: “Transforming Agriculture for Wealth Creation in Africa”?

We really like the theme because it aligns with our company’s focus on finding solutions for the farmer. Our company’s motto is “Farmers First”.
 
Everything we do is focused on the farmer. We have complete solutions for the farmer: from seeds to soil technology products to post-harvest solutions. As you know, 40 percent of agricultural crops are lost after harvest.
 
The farmer puts in all his efforts: money, time and all the resources and after it’s been harvested encounters 40 percent loss. This is a huge loss to the farmer. So, we have developed creative solutions to save food crops, potatoes and green crops.
 
Have you worked with any African companies to achieve your objectives in this sector?
 
We have been present in Africa for the last 25 years. Our regional head office in Africa is in Nairobi, Kenya. We are also present in 30 African countries. We work with various non-governmental organizations and foundations such as Rockefeller Foundation, Grow Africa and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). These these organizations work for small and marginal farmers to increase income. We work alongside them to improve farmers’ skills using post-harvest technologies. We also have a commitment to build up two million cold storages in Africa in a few years for potatoes.
 
What has been your biggest challenge in working with farmers in Africa?
 
We have been operating in Africa for 25 years and now have footholds in many African countries. It is not a challenge as such.
 
We are working with NGOs to get food input into Africa. The reason we are working with NGOs is to give credit facilities to the farmer. You know what happens. The crops takes six months to grow and a farmer needs to have the product before the output comes out. In developed countries, people usually give credit facilities to the farmers and which are repaid after the product is harvested. It is a different situation in Africa. We give credit facilities, but encounter hitches getting our funds back. African farmers don’t pay up on time.
 
How much has your company given as credit to farmers on the continent?
 
I don’t have the exact number but it runs into the billions of dollars.  
 
Are you into large-scale farming?
 
We have products that can be used in drought situations. The product is called Ziba and was launched in Kenya recently.   When this produce is applied to the soil, it absorbs water and keeps it to the root zone of the plant, making it available to the plant in the dry season. When the crops are irrigated, the water level increases. This way a farmer is able to save the available water.   
 
What has been your experience participating in this exhibition and in the AfDB Annual Meetings?
 
I think we are the only farm input company that is present here. There are people from the tractor industry, but you don’t see anybody with a complete range of products (with seeds, crop production products and soil and water technology).
 
There has been tremendous response from people in agriculture and from those with a finance background. Ultimately, everything for a country depends on agriculture. All the dignitaries who came in here – even from finance and banking sector – were interested in knowing about our product and what we can do for the African continent.
 
We also had the opportunity to talk to Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank. He was very interested to know about our products. We also had the opportunity to meet with the Agriculture Minister of Kenya
 
How many people have visited your stand since the exhibition started?
 
We have hosted about 75 to100 important people so far. Our coming here was 100 percent worth it. 
 
What else do you have to say about the conference and transforming agriculture in Africa?

I see the huge potential that Africa can feed itself and also export its products to other regions.