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We are set to launch Africa’s biggest abattoir in Nigeria - Mafindi
Alhaji Isa Mafindi, Tafidan Muri, is one of the top- ranking mechanised farmers in Nigeria. He is in the process of launching an abattoir rated as the biggest and best of its kind in Africa. The N600 million modern abattoir processes 500 cows in one hour and is built to beef the export capacity of Nigeria in meat production. He speaks with Idowu Samuel on his new vision for the country.
Those who know you well describe you as an ambitious farmer. Now, you are venturing into an abattoir project. What is it all about?
This has to do with a modern abattoir with an international standard. It also complies with the Islamic standard. The abbatoir is one of the biggest in the world and it is automated. It kills cows, processes them and sorts out into parts. It also stores and refrigerates the parts for immediate and future consumption. It is the first of its kind in Nigeria. Essentially, it processes cows into different by-products such as sausage rolls, suya, danbu, nama, table meat, sharwarma, corned beef and others.
When did you start mooting the idea of building the abattoir?
It all stared about two years ago, when I was watching a documentary on Aljazeera television station. I saw how they portrayed our abattoirs, mostly in Enugu, Kaduna, Lagos and other places, in the documentary. The documentary focused mainly on the dirty aspects of meat processing in Nigeria and I felt bad because it made us a laughing stock to the rest of the world.
I am a Fulani man. We have been rearing cattle year-in year-out. In the documentary, they focused on how backward we are in Nigeria; how we have been carrying cattle from the bushes, loading them into trailers and transporting them over long distances (from Borno to Lagos), and that the cows becomes carcasses even before reaching their destinations.
The documentary further insinuated that we ran our abattoirs like in a toilet environment. It showed how the cows were killed in very dirty environments and then carried in wheel barrows, with hordes of flies accompanying it, while, in some cases, there were maggots.
It laid emphasis on the unhygienic water that is often used to clean cows after being killed and, eventually, concluded that Nigerians consume contaminated meats because meat- processing in Nigeria runs through poor hygiene conditions. There and then, I decided to make a break, having mastered the art of cattle rearing, to go into meat processing by modern standard.
So, I approached the First Bank to see if I could obtain a loan facility approved for farmers in Nigeria by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. The abattoir cost me N600 million. I could personally mobililise N400 million, while the bank would make available a loan of N240 million. I was eager to have this project executed because I know that the market is there for processed meat in Nigeria.
Go to cocktail parties any where in Nigeria and see the rate of meat consumption by the people. Funny enough, some supermarkets, in fact, sell imported meats to Nigerians. That tells you that we still import meat, despite having the resources to produce cattle in large quantities, even for the rest of Africa. Nigeria imports meat from South-Africa mainly because there is no standard abattoir in the security to process meat.
If the abattoir takes off in Nigeria, how do you hope to market it to other countries?
When we started the request for the certificate, we began to get aides from the United States on its Agoa initiative. The principals welcomed us and said they would ensure that our products pass through all the necessary checks so that we can have markets outside Nigeria. The US would really not mind purchasing the meat from us for countries noted for conflicts because they send relief packages to such countries. We already secured a shopping mall in Zone 3 Abuja where people can go to purchase freshly processed meat in different quantities. Indeed, the price would be affordable, because it would be far below market price.
How many cows can the machine process in one day?
It could take as much as 500 in one day, but we are planning to start with 200. But the number would increase with demand later and I think we can cope. We can also process about 700 rams in a day. We don’t fear any risk, because whatever we produce, and is not consumed immediately, could be preserved in a cold room for more than five years.
Already, we have more than 40,000 cattle which are currently undergoing fattening and that could make us start production non-stop all through the year.
How long have you been into farming?
Well, I have been on this for quite a long time. In fact, I inherited farming from my father and I started since I was 15.
Is the Nigerian government aware of this private initiative, even though it should have launched something similar earlier?
Oh quite well, the government is aware. The Minister of Agriculture was here; all the directors in the ministry have visited this place. Even the director of livestock carries this initiative like a baby. You can see the enthusiasm in the government officials who came here.
Is the government promising any assistance?
The fact that government officials have been coming to see what we are doing here is enough encouragement. What more assistance do we need? You see, for us to experience transformation of our agricultural sector, the private sector must be at the centre. And we are private operators.
How many hectares of land do you have here?
We have almost 300 and it is just for growing the grasses to feed the cows. We breed only cattle for the sake of the abattoir. Meanwhile, we have our main farm in Taraba State where we grow maize, breed fishes and other agricultural products.
What would you say to other farmers who are yet to think about this?
Every farmer should always think beyond his immediate confines. When we finally kick-start this project, it would gain international attention, since the US is ready to partner with us. In a matter of years, there may be more of this same kind of abattoir in other parts of the country and that means progress. What I am saying is that farmers in Nigeria, particularly those who practise large-scale farming, should assume the responsibility of taking the challenge to be the engine room for the growth of agriculture in Nigeria. The government cannot run this kind of enterprise because the ones it ran in the past never got anywhere. It is the private sector who could do this successfully.
When do you hope to launch it?
By the grace of Allah, we shall start operations by the middle of the year. The installation of machinery is ongoing and it will be completed by April. So, by April, all things being equal, we shall take off and Nigeria would be the best in Africa in terms of providing well-treated meat.