BusinessDay

We are willing to help Nigeria solve nutritional imbalance – Stan Born

STAN BORN, vice-chairman, US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) was part of a delegation from USSEC to Nigeria recently, when it hosted a conference. In this interview with BusinessDay’s CALEB OJEWALE, speaks about what Nigeria can learn from the US in improving nutrition through Soy; for human consumption and boosting animal production (to again, meet human needs). Excerpts:

What would you describe as the primary objective of USSEC coming to Nigeria and hosting this event?

We think Nigeria has a great opportunity and need. We heard today in the conference that challenges and opportunities go together, and the challenge here is adequate nutrition for your population. That’s one of the things that we can help with, and a sweet spot for us.

US Soy can help in a variety of ways address that nutritional need directly in the human diet or indirectly through animals (poultry, aquaculture, etc). So we’re here to make sure that we can share what those opportunities are, and how we might be able to help and also to listen. We want to make sure that we’re listening and that we really understand your challenges and opportunities so that we offer and align in a correct way.

What opportunities do you offer specifically that you think could benefit the Nigerian industry?

We know that Soy, whether it comes from the US or whether you grow it here, has a very good balance of the amino acids that are needed in the human diet and in animal diets, to put flesh on the bones. And we understand that, and we know how to apply it because we work with people all over the world in doing this. Therefore, we think that we can help by sharing some of that knowledge and technology to help Nigerian leaders in the industry apply those principles and apply those actions in their own businesses to help them be more successful. That’s why we’re here.

We want to share what we know, collaborate, and help Nigeria improve the nutritional balance in its population because we know that will help the country be more successful. We also know it will help us be more successful because we have a product to offer that we think will be helpful. And it’s not as we say in the US, a quid pro quo- it doesn’t mean that if we help you with this, you have to buy US Soy, not at all. You have your choice of many different origins or growing it yourself, but we believe that the demand and the benefits will create opportunity all around, for us included.

We want to share what we know, collaborate, and help Nigeria improve the nutritional balance in its population because we know that will help the country be more successful

So you’re saying it’s not necessarily about buying US Soy to fill this deficit, but you want to offer other solutions in helping to bridge the gap that exists locally?

That’s correct. We want to be able to show you how to use Soy as part of that solution. We don’t want to tell you where to get it, but we’d like the opportunity to compete for it. When your demand gets to the point where you don’t have enough available supply for your needs to feed the chickens, to feed the tilapia, and human consumption, we’d like to then have the opportunity to compete for the business that you’re creating. That’s all, and we have a lot of experience in this area and that’s why we just want to share those experiences because we think it can help you, and as you grow, that could help us too.

Could you mention one or two of those opportunities that you want us to learn from and that you’ve come to discuss here today?

Let’s begin with one thing about the nutritional value of US Soy. So soy, regardless of where it comes from, whether you grow it, whether you buy it next door, or you import it from offshore, Soy has a very good balance of amino acids and it’s the amino acids that turn into protein in an animal, whether it is a bird, fish or whatever.

So soy is a great contributor for protein to meet that goal. US Soy, because of the environmental conditions that we grow in, because of the way that we handle it in processing, because we have cold weather that we can store it in, sees the quality of US Soy as superior to some other sources of origin.

We’re not any smarter than anybody else, it’s just our environment where we grow it, which is unique and that gives US Soy some unique capabilities, and it’s those capabilities that we want to make sure that potential customers here in Nigeria understand, so that they can make that decision when the time comes when there isn’t enough Soy in the country, and you need to go somewhere else. We want you to be fully informed and then make informed choices.

Read also: US, Nigerian Soybean stakeholders meet to strengthen value-chain

What are the takeaways you’ve picked out so far in terms of challenges in the Nigerian ecosystem?

One of the things that really caught my ear is about the challenges of finance here in Nigeria. You’re rich in natural resources, you export oil, and oil prices, of course, are pretty volatile. But you’ve also got some limitations on your ability to add value to that oil, like; you don’t have a lot of refining capacity. So you have to buy the higher value-added diesel, petrol and so on and all these things are adding to a lot of financial challenges.

High unemployment, high interest rates, and the seeming lack of availability of foreign funds to be able to purchase. So that’s one thing that really stuck with me. But I don’t know the solution.

The other thing that I would say is potential challenges, (in terms of) making sure that with the choices you make, you think about the environment. You’ve got a growing population here, 218 million people thereabout, on land that’s the size of one of our large states in the United States. So it’s a very dense population and it’s growing and so making sure that you take care of your land, that you take care of your environment, and that you take care of your people from a safety standpoint. Those aspects of sustainability I think are important; the social, the environmental, and it impacts the economic side.

Likewise, when you do business with suppliers and perhaps, look at offshore sources for soybeans in the future, we want you to be aware of what we do to ensure sustainability. The work we do in the social aspects of how we produce our products, the things that we do to take care of the land and to ensure the next generation will be able to carry on and do what we’re doing, and do it more efficiently and more effectively with less inputs and less impact.

What do you think Nigeria can learn from how you do things, and improve our own situation here?

I think it’s a question of, (in the US) we’re following the UN guidelines, so we’re not creating these rules. These have been set by the United Nations and you have access to that information.

I think the thing that we can bring to you is a practitioner’s example of what we’re doing to realise those goals and how we structure things. It’s not just what we’re doing on the farm or what we do through our organization working with our industry partners, but it also involves our government because the US agriculture department is critical in helping us realize those goals. They provide the framework and structure for us to be able to continuously improve and execute on those things that align with those elements of the United Nations goals. I believe we can share practical examples of how we execute and realize those goals.

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