Nigeria’s Cassava Queen

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Yemisi obtained her undergraduate degree in food biochemistry from the Federal University of Technology Minna in 1997 and later completed her postgraduate studies in biochemistry and nutrition at the University of Ibadan in 2000. Afterwards, she ventured into entrepreneurship, developing food products for diabetic individuals using wheat and creating natural beverages.

In 2001, Yemisi chose to work at Ekha Agro-Processing Ltd in Lagos state, a company that specializes in using cassava to manufacture glucose syrup. During her time at Ekha, Yemisi took on various projects that allowed her to gain valuable experience working with cassava and discovering the untapped potential of this crop. She played a leading role in this project and developed a strong affinity for the crop. Yemisi dedicated a decade to the company before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey.

While working at Ekha, Yemisi managed to acquire her plot of land where she eventually built her farm and factory. Following a decade of service with Ekha Agro, she decided to move from Lagos to the farm in Ado-Awaye town in Oyo State in 2015. There, she constructed a modest dwelling farmland and resided therein with a team of approximately six employees. Together, they diligently cultivated the land and collaborated with local smallholder farmers. Their objective was to encourage a shift in mindset, encouraging farmers to diversify from solely growing cassava for fufu or garri, and instead focus on cultivating for industrial purposes. This is the genesis of her multimillion Psaltry International Limited.

Psaltry International Limited is a company that specializes in producing food-grade starch and high-quality cassava flour. In addition to growing their cassava, the company also purchases from local smallholder farmers. Psaltry International Limited produces food-grade starch, a versatile ingredient with nearly 300 applications in the food industry, commonly used by beverage companies and for seasoning, noodles, and pastries. Recently, they opened the first cassava-based sorbitol factory in Nigeria, with the honourable presence of Oyo state Governor, Governor Seyi Makinde. This sorbitol factory is also responsible for producing healthier sweeteners.

Yemisi recognized the importance of having access to raw materials and being close to them to succeed in the production industry. She prioritized proximity to raw materials over proximity to the market, as finished goods were easier to transport compared to raw materials. As a result, she strategically chose to establish the company in the remote area of Ado-Awaye, in Oyo state.

Additionally, she acknowledged that quality would play a crucial role in attracting potential buyers. Nestlé, being the first international company, sampled the initial batch of the company’s products and became the very first customer within a fortnight of production. At the time, there were not many producers in Nigeria who were able to deliver high-quality starch. Nevertheless, after experiencing the level of quality Psaltry International Limited produces, Nestlé certified the company’s products within two to three weeks. Nigerian Breweries followed suit, and from there, the business expanded.

Yemisi Iranloye did not underestimate the difficulties involved in starting an agro-processing company in a rural location. Despite the lack of electricity in the area, she managed to establish and operate her factory using generators. She also chose Ado-Awaye for its ample land and friendly community. Although water was scarce, this problem was solved by constructing boreholes for both the local community and the factory. Despite the unfavourable road conditions, the factory overcame transportation obstacles and effectively hired employees.

After a decade of operation, Psaltry International Limited has achieved an annual income of 12 million USD. The company has established a vast network of more than 5,000 farmers and boasts renowned customers such as Unilever, Nestlé, Nigerian Breweries, and Promasidor, among others. Focusing on cassava production and processing in Nigeria, Psaltry International Limited specializes in creating various products including starch, flour, and sorbitol. Derived from cassava, sorbitol is a natural sweetener that is considered healthier than cane syrup and is utilized in toothpaste, pharmaceutical drugs, and high-end beverages. With an impressive production capacity, Psaltry International Limited produces over 10,000 tonnes of starches each year.

Her new sorbitol factory claims to be the first in Africa and the second largest globally. This factory can produce 25 tons of sorbitol every day.

This billionaire cassava woman has earned the prestigious Akikanju badge of honour for her remarkable achievements in the agricultural sector of Southwest Nigeria.

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