Nigeria consumes 7 million tonnes of rice yearly but only produces 2.5 million tonnes locally. This means that the rice industry has not been fully exploited by Nigerian entrepreneurs to create jobs and also ease the pressure on the local currency as the country spends $2 billion on imports.
This is where Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed Falalu comes in with his Agribusiness firm known as FaLGates Foods, which grows, processes, packs and sells parboiled rice, according to How We Made It In Africa. He founded the business in 2012 and started operations in 2016. Falalu’s venture is a symbolic statement in Nigeria’s quest to change the narrative in the rice industry.
While his drive into the Nigerian rice industry was influenced by economics, his interest in rice farming and milling developed from a very young age. “I always had an interest in farming, I remember writing in our high school’s yearbook under future ambition that I wanted to be a farmer,” he said.
Falalu’s rice production and milling venture in Kaduna State, northern Nigeria, processes up to 50,000 metric tonnes of rice per year, with a turnover of $3.4 million, he told How We Made It In Africa.
He employed more than 30 people in Kaduna and over 150 people at farms in Niger and Kebbi some two years after he started operations.
Speaking to his alma mater on how impactful his business has been to his workers, he noted, “Some of them built their own houses in their hometown; some of them got married and gave birth to babies. This is my primary goal rather than creating more capital.”
FaLGates made a turnover of about $450,000 in 2017 and has continued to post seven figures since then.
At the time he decided to go into rice production, the Nigerian government had also introduced an agricultural development incentive policy in 2012. This helped him set up his company in 2012 but he did not start operation as he decided to pursue further education in China to enhance his business skills.
“Even though I had learnt a lot about China, I was still shocked after landing,” Sadiq said. “China is undoubtedly a rising superpower. Its industries such as technology and construction are booming. I have seen lots of amazing projects like Alibaba and WeChat at that time.”
The 32-year-old has a degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. He also has a master’s degree in Management from the same university.
And to have a fair understanding of the business environment, he went on to acquire a second masters degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management from the Nottingham Ningbo University Business School, China in 2014 and came back to Nigeria for his rice business.
His mother was his first investor. She gave him $40,000. He added the monies he made trading goods as a student in China to what his mom gave him and the total became his seed capital. Friends and family later joined as shareholders. Falalu said he lost a lot of money because of credit issues but made it up in other places. “In business, you win some and lose some.”
In 2018, Forbes recognized his hard work and contribution toward helping Nigeria to become self-sufficient in rice production. Forbes magazine named him as one of Africa’s most promising young entrepreneurs in its Forbes Africa 30-under-30 list.
“We have got a lot of phone calls shortly after the release of this list and some of the callers have intentions to cooperate,” he said after the Forbes recognition. “Hope our company could continuously develop and benefit more people in the future.”