Tara Agro Industries Limited is the Partner of the Month of May! In this interview, the Chairman, Chief Engr. Charles Ugwuh shares their activities in the clean cookstoves sector.
Give us a brief introduction about your organisation
Tara Agro Industries Limited is an integrated rice processing mill focused on processing paddy stock to finished/polished rice and packaging same as high quality branded rice. The company is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) project with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA). It is one of the five Rice Mills established by the Federal Government in 2009/2012 through the Special Rice Intervention Scheme approved in 2008 aimed at developing high quality milling capacity. The company’s installed capacity is 42,000 tons of Paddy/year.
What does your organisation seek to achieve in the Nigeria’s cooking energy market
In processing paddy, rice mills generate considerable volumes of rice husk used partly for energy generation for boilers, dryers etc. The residual rice husk is used to produce briquettes which are a viable source of low cost energy for cooking etc. Our Organisation is seeking to promote the use of these rice husk briquettes for cooking in homes at affordable cost. Until now, the rice husk constituted a major environmental hazard and ecosystem challenge. Therefore an effective utilization of the husk is beneficial to all – delivering more healthy, efficient and eco-friendly cooking system for households.
Can you tell us about your clean cooking activities including your achievements?
Our clean cooking activities are to convert these residual husks into an efficient solid fuel and develop stoves for industrial and domestic cooking. Flowing from these, we have developed the Quick Fire Husk Briquettes and we are striving to promote the utilization of the rice briquettes for cooking. Further, we have developed a special stove to deliver energy using the briquettes. The briquettes are very efficient with high calorific value, healthy and eco-friendly.
What are your biggest challenges in implementing your clean cooking activities?
Our biggest challenge is infrastructural deficiency of national power. The limited power supply and lack of infrastructures by the government in the Rice Value Chain is affecting us negatively. Secondly, there are very limited skills to fabricate the stoves locally.
What are the opportunities identified in the country that can help the growth of your clean cooking activities?
The opportunities identified in the country are mostly the financial opportunities to support our local fabricators of stoves; standardizing and regulating cooking equipment in a way to promote wider use of efficient cooking stove. This will spur a major growth in cooking stoves.
How are consumers reacting to your clean cooking activities – benefits of your clean cooking activities to the consumers?
The Consumers are positive and are very happy using our Quick Fire Husk Briquettes. They gladly note that the briquettes is a far cheaper alternative to cooking gas, kerosene, wood and charcoal; they are cleaner to handle than wood and charcoal, and produce less smoke and local air pollution; they are easier and faster to ignite than wood and charcoal with high calorific value; they are eco-friendly and easier to store and use for cooking than wood and charcoal because they are uniform in size and composition. Our customers are also excited using our Masa stove as it emits significantly less smoke, keeps the pot clean, very durable and saves money, fuel and time. The main issue they noted is the high relative cost of the stoves because of the import tariff on stove and stove components particularly flat steel for local fabrication.
Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How do your clean cooking activities help drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
The company has employed 105 staff; about 65 of them are mostly women and youth. This helps to empower them and also gives them an opportunity to acquire more skills and knowledge in the industry.
If you are asked to advise the Federal Government of Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the clean cookstoves market?
The federal government of Nigeria should reduce the import duties and tariff on stoves and stove components. The federal government should also provide financial assistance for local fabricators of stoves. This could help to reduce the cost of the stoves so that it will be easier for the consumers to purchase the stoves. Finally, the federal government should create employment for the youths.
If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
If an enabling environment is not created by the government, there will be slow growth in the clean cooking industry.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
To move the clean cooking market forward in Nigeria, the government should standardize and regulate the cookstoves market with regards to emission and smoke pollution. The government should also reduce the import tariff on stove components from 20% and 5% vat to not more than 5% in total.
Is there any other thing you would like to share?
Our parent company, Ebony Agro Industries Limited is a miller of high quality Nigerian rice. Our brand name is Ebony super rice and Ebony gold rice. We also offer a range of other rice products like Brown Rice, Ground Rice and Provita – A Multi Grain Meal. We would be glad to receive any enquiries on our rice products.