‘Nigerian Businesses Need Intervention Fund’ | Independent Newspapers Limited
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‘Nigerian Businesses Need Intervention Fund’

Posted: Sep 20, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 Anthony Okpala is the chief executive officer and managing director of Carlsbury Winery, a company that is into the production of food drinks, based at the Technology Incubation Centre, Agege, Lagos. In this interview with Ikechi Nzeako, he says Nigerians need intervention fund to survive the harsh economic environment. Excerpts:



What was the motivation for setting up Carlburry Winery?

 I read agro economics at the university and I have a passion for doing business. I also have a passion for producing agrochemical products. I looked at our part of the world and discovered that there are much fruits that can be transformed into wealth. I also saw that a huge percentage of the fruits were being wasted due to the unavailability of adequate storage facilities. We have good passion fruits that can be used to make excellent and quality wines. I saw a window of opportunity and decided to take it. That motivated me to start producing high quality food drinks using local fruits, and the local content of our food drinks is over 80 percent. We use pineapples as our base instead of concentrates unlike the imported food drinks.

 How does what you produce compare to the imported ones?

 Most of the food drinks that are imported into the country are concentrates that have been flavoured and they call them food drinks. Our food drinks are made from fresh fruits and not concentrates like the imported food drinks. We thank God that we have high quality pineapples in the country, which are better than the ones they have in the West. We use local pineapples to produce high quality fresh pineapple drinks. What we produce are from fresh farm fruits unlike in Europe where food drinks are made from concentrates. It was these factors that led me into producing fruit drinks using local fruits.

How has it been producing these food drinks?

 We have received commendations from far and near for the high quality of our products. The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration (NAFDAC) has certified and registered our products and we have been in the business for five years. It has been wonderful. The product has been well received by Nigerians and it is doing well in the marketplace.

 How has it been competing with imported wines, whose producers have economy of scale?

 The thing is that Nigerians do not appreciate things that are Nigerian; but they always change their position after tasting our products, which is always made from fresh fruits and because of its high quality. Given the stiff competition, we always ask them to taste and they always ask for more after. We are not afraid of competition because of the high quality of our products.

 Most entrepreneurs say the Nigerian business environment is harsh, how have you been able to surmount the challenges?

 Getting the fund to expand the business is a major challenge. The banks are not friendly in terms of supporting entrepreneurs. The conditions they demand are so difficult that most upcoming entrepreneurs cannot meet them.

 How did you start in terms of capital?

 I had to sell some of my properties to raise fund for the business because the bank did not give me a facility and I did not want my dream to die. I have a passion for the business and I want to be part of the wealth-creating process in the country.

 But the federal government said it has provided all manner of funds for business people like you to access: CBN SME fund, Bank of Industry and others. Have you tried to access any of the funds?

 That was why I joined the Technology Incubation Centre. I thought it would give us the leverage to access some fund but unfortunately that has not happened. I hope that the current government will make funds easier to access by entrepreneurs.

 However, small businesses should not start with a loan because of the high interest rate and because it will lead to financial problems. What they need is intervention fund from the government. What Nigerian entrepreneurs need is financial assistance that will help them overcome the harsh economic realities in the country.

 Where do you want to be in the next five years?

 I want to be like a big giant. I want to be like the Nigerian Breweries.