In this exclusive interview with The News Chronicle, Mr Reuven Cohen, CEO of Afri-Fruits, sheds light on his journey into the agri-business in Nigeria and the enormous untapped agricultural potential of the country.
TNC: Thank you for this opportunity to discus with you. Can you please tell us a about your company, Afri-Fruits: what does it do? Why did you venture into that line of business? Tell us about the company’s growth trajectory, including the number of employees.
Cohen: Afri-Fruits was established in 1989, it is an agricultural management and consulting company. Our major business is to promote agriculture and establish advanced technology farming in Nigeria. We introduced the drip irrigation system which is now one of the leading irrigation systems in the world. Later on we expanded our business to other areas like fish farming, establishing a lot of greenhouses. In general, we focus on introducing new crops, farming technology and promote the agricultural sector of Nigeria.
TNC: We know it is not easy to maintain a business in Nigeria, with the current situation of the country like the corruption, bad power supply, inflation of goods and services and so on, so how have you been able to manage all these challenges since 90s you have been in Nigeria, what has been the secret?
Cohen: Yes there are a lot of challenges but for every problem there is a solution, though sometimes it is not easy and cheap especially in the cost of the crops and production, challenges in the in the water supply, local human resource management and so on , but in general, as an experienced company in the business, we have ways to tackle our challenges, like the introduction of solar energy to solve electricity problems.
TNC: From what we have read about you and your company, we see you are one of the big agricultural firms in Nigeria, so what do you do differently, what do you do to keep you at the top?
Cohen: As long as you have a good name you will succeed. I think it is our good name that makes us stand out, the good job and the infrastructure we introduce to Nigeria’s agricultural sector, most of our crops and supplies from Isreal are rather made affordable to our customers. So it is just keeping good name and good products in the market.
TNC: We would like to ask you about entreprenuship, is it restrictedonly business mindewd people or can anybody be an entrepreneur?
Cohen: In my own opinion, anybody can do anything he likes to do and be the best he or she wants to be, that is how I see life, you can be successful. Despite the saying that Nigeria is very hard and young people want to leave the country but my advice and solution is to stay in Nigeria, do your best and you can be that thing you want to be in other countries, here in Nigeria. Nigeria is for Nigerians.
TNC: Did you start up this company in Nigeria or it was started in Israel?
Cohen: I came into Nigeria as an employee of a company that was contracted to set up a farm in Kano. I was the manager of the farm, so after the job with the company, I decided to stay and set up my own business here. Nigeria is very favourable for agriculture and you can produce any crop you think of in Nigeria, like the apple I introduced in Jos and Kaduna in 1992. Nigeria is favourable to agriculture, so that made me stay back.
TNC: We see that passion and excellence have helped you in overcoming the challenges faced in business. So does these challenges you face or the extra mile you go to tackle them affect the prices of your products?
Cohen: Of course it does, like the issue of electricity, we went extra mile to get solar energy, so the prices of our outputs and products are affected, and you know every business is about profit. Yet, we do not sacrifice the happiness of our customers and the quality of our services on the altar of profit-making, we ensure that we are fair and that our customers receive value for money spent.
TNC: As we conclude, we would love to know what you think about the insecurity situation in Nigeria and the forthcoming election
Cohen: I really do not want to meddle in the political affairs of the county. Well for the insecurity in the country, it is quite troubling as I have witnessed it too, my friend was kidnapped last year. My movements are restricted due to the insecurity, unlike before when I could go anywhere in Nigeria by myself. Security anywhere in the world is paramount and something every state must endeavor to provide as it affects other parts of society.