Onu Expresses FG’s Determination to Assist Honey Producer/SMEs Scale-up Operations

  • Asserts ministry is home of startups in Nigeria

By Mohammed Mohammed ONU:

The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, over the weekend assured the management of A&Shine International Limited, Nigerians and other Small and Medium Scales (SMEs) Entrepreneurs of Federal Government’s determination to support them in the expansion of their business frontiers.

Onu, made the pledged at the instance of the visit of the A&Shine management staff, a private producer and processor of varieties of honey products, led by its Chairperson and Managing Director (MD), Arc. (Mrs.) Bukola Adesina at the Ministry’s Headquarters in Abuja.

The Minister who could not conceal his excitement at the success story of the company as replicating the mission and vision statement of the ministry, said:

“I want to assure you and your team that the Ministry of STI will definitely support you. We are very happy with this success story. when I visited your factory here in Kuje, I was very happy with the wide range of products, the equipment and the number of Nigerians that are employed by your organization.

“It is well appreciated and well noted that you are helping the nation to produce locally, products that otherwise, we would have been importing from outside the country.

“When we produce locally as against importing from other nations, we are creating jobs for Nigerians.”

He acknowledged that the company is collaborating with the ministry and helping to strengthening the nation’s economy and above all, fighting extreme poverty.

He further added: “I commend your pioneering efforts for coming first at the Minna incubation centre and also in the United States (US) where your products were demonstrated and showcased.”

On the ministry’s achievement as being a leader in mentoring incubatees across the country, while underscoring Adesina’s efforts in nation building, Onu, said: “With what you have done, we want Nigerians to know that this ministry has made so many contributions in having startups and as a matter of fact the Ministry of STI is the home of startups.

According to Onu, many of the incubatees that started small and micro businesses and have become big businesses all over the country, reiterating that as the CEO of the National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI), said, that quite a greater number of SMEs in Niger State and so many other states across the country are products of the centres.

“We believe very strongly that research findings must be converted into products and services and when we find that they can contribute to the economy of the nation, we then move on to protect their Intellectual Property (IP) through patent.

“Consequently, we will now send them to the NBTI in Minna who will help in upscaling their skills both the young and old to impact knowledge and this has become very useful for nation building.

“Individuals and companies that have graduated from NBTI centres are doing very well. In Lagos State for example, there is Spectra Nigeria Limited and they are doing great in the food chain businesses and supplying products to multinationals and employing so many Nigerians.

“We are also very proud of A&Shine, especially with they have done in the food value chain and we also know that there challenges especially with the COVID-19 emergence, however, the ministry must come in to assist to make sure that their production goes unhindered, especially with the production of organic honey and 100% of honey, honey mixed with ginger and other products.” The Minister, said.

Onu, expressed happiness that NBTI is making contribution to the growth of the economy, adding that the agency has centres in all the 36 states, helping in building skills of young and old Nigerians that will last them life’s time.

He empahsised that this is the quickest way to fight poverty in Nigeria, explaining further, that this is the only way that we feel that the relevance and impact of STI to nation building can be felt by everybody.

On the success story and raison d’etre of the visit:

Arc. Adesina, recalled that she used to be a lecturer of Architecture, but a health challenge prompted her detour into honey production and processing and since 1999 after undergoing capacity building at NBTI in Minna, she has never looked back, even though the COVID-19 headwinds came to compounded sales which affected the company’s revenue.

Without mincing words, she stated that the company is soliciting for more collaboration and support with the ministry to help expand and upscale the business of honey processing in the country to international markets through several supportive windows that the federal government can assist them with.

She said: “We are here in the ministry to seek Dr. Onu’s support to scale our business operations as we need to build the capacity of bee farmers so that they can supply us the raw honey. The assistance can be through finance and it could be capacity building of farmers.

After our training at NBTI, Centre in Minna, we were able to forge ahead of others and today our products are virtually in all the supermarkets across the country in Lagos, PH, Abuja, Kano and cities, added.

We are therefore part of the success story of the ministry through TIC, Arc. Adesina quipped.

On challenges facing the large scale processing of honey, the Architect turned honey entrepreneur, said: “Specifically it has to do with getting raw honey which has been dwindling because of the widespread kidnapping and insecurity challenges.

Narrating how she dumped Architecture for honey production, she said: “I had a health challenge which I thought honey could heal and coincidentally, NBTI came to Minna for the training in honey production.

“I took up the challenge and started by picking bottles and I thank God that in 1999 after 3 years, we were able to graduate and we bagged the award as the best outfit on from the centre.”

Adesina, while effacing as the poster-boy of STI, said the company has rolled out products like with ginger honey, honey with garlic, Chin-chin honey and Sesame honey, adding that it was wonderful that any of the ministry: RMRDC saw their products, analysed them and gave A&Shine an award.

Other awards for productivity followed subsequently, she however emphasized that her late husband who passed on in 2021, was a pillar in the company’s success will be enormously missed.

Still on pledges of support, she recalled that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister came to the Kuje factory and made a promise, though he has not done anything yet, we were still able to pay salaries and no staff was retrenched.

She said: “God is helping us, we had to take facilities from a development bank and behold here we are to seek assistance from the ministry because of other great innovations like the organic honey that we are moving into.”

Arc. Adesina, stressed that getting honey enlisted is a problem, adding: “In fact there is the AAPA that the DG talked about, US had problem because they had colony problem and because they recycled B1 and because they use fertilization the honey production was dwindling and so they had to pick two people from every nation, each from government and private sector.

“We were opportuned to be nominated from the private sector and like he said A&Shine chaired the whole of Africa and we were expected to come back to Africa to impact the citizens, which we really did.

“With the support of the Minister of Agriculture then, Chief Audu Ogbeh we launched the Expo, in Abuja where people came from all over the world and at that conference honey entered a new level in Nigeria. New equipment were brought from all over the world and their sales began and today those equipment are being replicated across the country.”

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