Osifeso Olanrewaju is an experienced Agriculturist with specialization in Plantation farming, food processing and consultancy. He is widely recognized as one of the young leading male Agriculturist in Nigeria.
Having acquired over 10 years experience as an entrepreneur with a drive for Private Sector Development. He owns a number of medium-sized commercial farms in Ogun and Oyo State.
During an Exclusive interview with the Managing Director & CEO of San Jose (Cashew & Cassava farms Nig Ltd), Olanrewaju Osifeso, The Young Boss talks about his journey as an entrepreneur, challenges and plans for the year 2020.
Let’s meet you sir:?
My name is Osifeso Olanrewaju
How was your growing up like?
As a child, the cane wasn’t too far from my butt. I was very inquisitive thereby running into a lot of trouble with my siblings and friends.
Did any of these affect your life positively?
Well, yes, I would say it definitely did because I was raised by my parents and they imbedded a lot of value in me, which ultimately shaped me into becoming the person I am today.
How did it all start?
It all started when I took over our family cashew plantation in Ihunbo, Ogun State. I started my career in Petroleum trading, before venturing into farming. So, I decided to turn the farm into a business, that is what plantation farming is actually about… growing crops on large tracts of land for the purpose of making profits. Yes, it has been a gradual process but we are definitely making progress as you can see.
Did you know I would be an entrepreneur or it just happened by chance?
I remember growing up just after my college, my father wanted me to join the Nigerian Navy but I wasn’t interested in becoming a military officer, about a year after he asked me to go to an aviation school in Russia to train as a private pilot but I declined as well. After my BSc degree, I registered a Petroleum trading and servicing company and that was the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey.
Why did you venture into the Agriculture sector?
There is a lot of untapped opportunities in the Agriculture value chain which I was willing to explore. It wasn’t easy at the beginning, and though we still experience challenges here and there, it has been worth it.
After working in a regular 9- 5 job what motivated you to start up as a farmer, work in the family plantation business?
Well, the truth is that I have never had a “9-5” job. I have always been an entrepreneur, working with mentors and learning along the way
What’s makes San Jose Cashew & Cassava farms Nig Ltd stand out in the Agribusiness?
I believe that our cutting edge is as a result of the standards of farming we practice and the fact that we also are into processing carves a niche (did you know that our cashew-nut snacks were once the official snack served at the Presidential Villa in Aso-Rock, Abuja.) Another reason might be that we are very particular about the quality of food people consume, hence our produce is carefully farmed, selected and processed to meet the best standards.
Let us talk about Agribusiness and branding, How have you been able to showcase the San Jose Company brand within & Outside Nigeria?
We try to attend seminars and conferences relating to our line of business. It is imperative that we attend these programs as it helps us network and develops a customer base. We learn a lot at such conferences and get exposure to new systems and technology in the agriculture value chain. We recently launched our new product of cashew-nut snacks which is sold for $5 on Amazon. It is important to have international certifications and maintain the quality standard if you want to play in the international market.
What does customer service mean to you?
Ensuring we provide a healthy and wealthy relationship with our customers.
A lot of farmers according to research use chemicals to plant their crops, What makes San Jose Cashew & Farms stand out in the competitive Agribusiness market?
Well, it totally depends on the type of chemicals involved. We are very careful when it comes to the use of the application of chemicals be it during herbicides or pesticide operations. On our farms, we try to practice organic farming.
The Government encourages Nigerian youths to go into farming, what is your take on such advice?
I understand that there are a few government support programs but most grass-root farmers find it very difficult to access them…
How has San Jose Cashew & Cassava farms create jobs for farmers since inception?
Through our support and sponsored operations and programs.
Aside from training, how can a farmer have access to Loans without breaking a bank?
Do you have any plans or platform created for farmers in Nigeria: Oh yes, we have a project coming up aimed at supporting small-scale farmers. This project should be ready by the end of 2020.
As San Jose Company celebrate 20 years of existence in Nigeria, What’s next?
We are very thankful, I appreciate every staff, they have been very patient and diligent. I appreciate the support of our finance and technical partners, investors, customers. We look forward to fruitful future endeavours.
Are you working on any project, Any plans for the year 2020?
Yes, we have a few projects on cassava coming up. We hope to launch by the 3rd quarter of 2020
Can anyone without experience venture into farming, what are the requirements needed?
With farming, passion is what’s important, the experience would be gained along the farming journey. It is also key to work closely with mentors and trained professionals.
What is Plantation farming?
This is basically crops or vegetative farming on large tracts of land in commercial scale for the purpose of profit.
Before you venture into farming, What are the First Steps to take?
Decide on what type of farming one would like to go into, plan visits to already existing farms that grow the produce you are interested in farming, develop a relationship with mentors or professionals because you would need them during your feasibility study, look out for the market acceptance of the product you want to farm and understand the seasons. After these, plan to get arable land, clear the land (if it is bushy), plow the land, harrow (depending on the crop you want to farm), etc…the mentors would guide you along the way. Also, it is key to getting off-takers for the produce weeks before harvest.
In this digital era, what your opinion on more theory courses on Farming to widen the knowledge of SMEs?
Remember the popular saying that “readers are leaders”, it is important to gain as much knowledge as possible be it theoretical or in practical means. The good thing about this digital era is that information is very accessible, one can be on the farm in a remote village, while at the same time receiving lectures from a school in Europe. The internet makes these things very possible.
Can you mention mentors who guided along your career path?
I would like to keep that information private. I have a long list of mentors and professionals to be thankful for.
What have you Learnt that is not taught in Books: Learning to look beyond the circumstance
Have you had challenging times when you thought of quitting: Oh! Severally, but no matter the “lemons” challenging times may throw at us, we end up making “lemonades” possibly sell it and make some $$. It’s important to stay calm during a storm.
Your favorite business quotes?
A man who is diligent in his business, shall stand before kings and not mean men
What do you first thing in the morning
How do you balance work and family?
I always find time for family and friends
Where do you see San Jose Cashew & Cassava farms in the next decade?
The plan is to expand the company’s portfolio by acquiring another 30,000 – 60,000 hectares of land for cassava farming.
If you can turn back the hand of time, what will you do?
hmmm! Develop a closer bond with friends and family members who I have lost to the cold hands of death.
As a busy CEO, what do you to relax?
So I always plan outings but I mostly find myself at home watching TV (haha). I sometimes play golf or visit my uncle’s stable at the polo club in Ibadan to ride his horses. I enjoy spending time with him, he is a bag of wisdom.
A Lot of Young farmers are coming up now, What is your advice to them?
Farming is not a make money quick scheme, it takes a lot of diligence and tenacity.
PHOTO CREDIT:OLA-AYINDE AL-AMEEN