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Mauricio Alarcon: Betting big on local sourcing to keep Nigerians nourished

When a restriction on provision of foreign exchange for the importation of maize was recently announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), many local processors using the commodity saw it as bad news that would put a huge strain on their operations.

For Nestle Nigeria Plc, however, this was going to reveal another reward for its deliberate, strategic investments in local sourcing. For at least four years now, the company reports it has sourced 100 percent of the maize used in its cereal brands – Cerelac and Golden Morn – through the Nestlé Cereals Plan. Not only maize, but also sorghum and soybeans used in Milo and Maggi respectively.

Nestlé’s commitment to local sourcing of raw materials for its production, has steadily grown over the last eight years, now reaching about 80 percent local sourcing of raw and packaging materials.

Under the leadership of Mauricio Alarcon, CEO, Nestle Nigeria Plc., the company’s commitment to local sourcing of raw materials has not only been sustained but also consolidated to increase local input used in the company’s product range. This on one hand has ensured the company has a guaranteed supply system, while at the same time, empowering thousands of local farmers to remain productive.

This, according to Alarcon is a result of investments made towards increasing local sourcing since 2011. “We remain committed to sustaining and increasing our local sourcing, and so continue to support the growth of the Agribusiness and food value chain which hold so much potential,” he said.

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The five major locally sourced products ( average volume per annum) are; Corn – 10,000 metric tonnes; Sorghum – 6,500 metric tonnes; Soya Beans – 5,000 metric tonnes; Cassava Starch – 4,000 metric tonnes; Cocoa – 5,000 metric tonnes.

By sourcing over 80 percent of its raw and packaging materials locally, while working towards developing new value chains including dairy, Nestle has been able to provide a steady source of livelihood for over 46,000 smallholder farmers who supply grains to its factories every day.

Nestle, according to Alarcon is committed to expanding its investments in Nigeria, and increasing production capacity at its different facilities. Not just this, but the company has consistently stepped up its impact program, which creates a win-win for communities where it operates, as well as Nestle as a business entity.

Mauricio Alarcon’s rise to the top in Nestle

In 21 years since joining Nestle in 1999, Mauricio Alarcon has worked in different roles, continents and countries until he became Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé Nigeria PLC in 2016.

Before his current role, Alarcon was the managing director of Nestlé Cote d’ivoire from 2014 and in 2016 became the managing director of the Atlantic Cluster comprising Côte d’ivoire, Sénégal, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Mauritania and Cape Verde.

He joined Nestlé Mexico in 1999 where he held various roles in sales and marketing before his transfer to the Strategic Business Unit in Switzerland as Marketing Advisor.

In 2004, Alarcon became the Marketing Lead for Nestlé’s Movenpick Ice Cream brand and in 2007, he was appointed as Marketing Manager of the Ice Cream Business unit in Australia.

He moved to Egypt in 2010 as Business Executive Manager for Nestlé’s Ice Cream Business in North Africa.

Alarcon He holds a Masters degree in Engineering from the University of Manchester.

Described as passionate about developing people and about the environment, Alarcon is a hands-on people leader who believes in working in close proximity with his people to achieve remarkable results. He does not believe in ticking the box and will challenge the status quo to achieve desired results and to make real impact. He sees opportunities and not challenges.

Under his leadership, Nestlé Nigeria successfully navigated the challenges of 2016 into 2017 and has motivated and inspired the team to remain resilient and agile, ensuring business continuity and amid the current challenges.

Building farmer capabilities

Called Creating Shared Value (CSV), Nestlé Nigeria says it touches the lives of millions of people, from the farmers who grow its ingredients to the families who enjoy its products, to the communities where the company operates, and the rural environment upon which it depends.

For Nestle, Alarcon says local sourcing is a long-term goal. The company has partnered with organisations like IITA, IFDC and USAID to promote sustainable farming practices while increasing yield and quality.

“With our partners, we have worked with farmers, teaching them simple methods for maintaining good agricultural and storage practices, how to manage grain quality and safety. These efforts ensure that we have the right quality of raw materials to attain our local sourcing targets,” he said in a previous interview with Businessday.

Nestle has continued to expand on its capacity building programs for farmers, reaching over 33,000 farmers in 2019 through direct training in best farming practices, and over 1.6 million others through radio disseminated programs in local languages. Outcomes include increased productivity; increase in household incomes by over 18 percent; and reduction in factory gate rejection of grains from over 30 percent to below 4 percent all in 18 months, according to information provided by the company.

“Nestlé Nigeria will continue to play its essential role of ensuring the uninterrupted availability of food and beverage products which are critical for the sustenance and well-being of millions of Nigerian families who rely on the company to help feed their families every day,” says Alarcon.

Investing in community, capacity development around Nestle facilities

According to Nestle, over 14,000 individuals in over 11 communities around its factories now have access to clean drinking water. The company has renovated classrooms and provided water and toilet facilities in schools around its sites, impacting over 800 schoolchildren, as well as donating learning and teaching materials to over 4000 learners. In 2019, the company commissioned five new community water projects and refurbished facilities in two additional schools.

In March 2020, Nestle handed over the refurbished facilities at the Makun High School, Sagamu. The project includes a fully equipped library, a creche for nursing teachers and an office for the Librarian.

The renovation of the school library aims at reviving a love for reading among the students amid the growing concern over the perceived decline in reading culture in Nigeria.

In March 2020, the fourth batch of Nestlé Nigeria’s Technical Training Center in Agbara graduated. The Technical Training program is described as a key part of the company’s efforts towards ensuring that youth within its communities are future ready. This is why the Abaji Technical Training Centre, TTC was launched in 2018 to reach even more Nigerian youths especially in the northern part of the country. To date over 100 students have successfully completed the program with over 80 percent employed by Nestlé.

With the aim to bridge the technical skills gap, participants receive vocational training in machining, mechanical fitting operations, electrical operations, instrumentation operations and automation. The training follows an intensive 18-month theoretical and practical engineering syllabus, which culminates in the prestigious City and Guilds of London technician certifications.

The program is part of ‘Nestlé Needs YOUTH’, a global flagship program launched in 2018 to help 10 million young people worldwide access economic opportunities by 2030.

In Nigeria, Nestlé says it has reached over 12,000 young Nigerians through career fairs, entrepreneurship programs and skills training, equipping them to find decent employment or profitable entrepreneurship.

Supporting National response efforts to COVID-19

Nestlé contributed over N700 million to support the COVID-19 response efforts in Nigeria. This donation included nutritious food and beverage products worth N450 million to reach more than 600,000 vulnerable people, most impacted by the crisis. The company also donated N250 million in cash for the procurement of medical supplies and personal protective equipment for the COVID-19 response.

The company supported the COVID-19 response efforts led by the Presidential Task force, working alongside other private sector partners in the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) to supply food and beverages to Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Enugu, Rivers, Kano and Kaduna States and Abaji Community, FCT. It also donated 13,000 units of N95 Masks to the Lagos State Ministry of Health to help ensure the safety of health workers and volunteers on the frontlines.

“We are joining forces with government to do everything we can to help those in need through both financial means and product donations in these unprecedented times where our communities need our support more than ever,” Alarcon says.

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