The Managing Director, Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Mr. Amos Akpan has stated that the greatest challenge facing the export of agricultural produce from Nigeria is the downgrading of the quality and species of the produce by foreign countries.
Akpan said this while presenting a paper titled, “Before We Enter the Next Discourse on Agro Cargo Export” at the just concluded second edition of Aviation Cargo Conference 2022 in Lagos .
Ironically, the same foreigners, Akpan said, are consuming Nigeria’s farm produce in all the five-star hotels in the country, in events and homes.
He pointed out that the same foreign citizens join their produce agencies and market unions to treat Nigeria’s produce differently at international trade.
He listed the farm produces to include: maize, cassava, onions, tomatoes, banana, plantain, palm oil, groundnut and cashew nuts.
Others are yam, rice, millet, beans, okro, vegetables, rubber, cocoa and cotton.
Akpan posited that Nigeria’s agricultural produce is in short supply compared to demand and that rubber, cocoa, and cotton are not sufficient to meet the demands of the local processing industries.
He lamented that the way Nigeria is going does not seem to be the right path towards reaching this goal which Nigerians have agreed must be achieved.
Nigeria, he argued, engaged more on seminars and policy statements, but that what happens in the farms, logistics chains, airports and seaports is far from what Nigerians want to achieve.
Statistically, Akpan said that more non- recorded export trade is ongoing in airports than those captured by the bureau of statistics.
He said that in view of these challenges, Nigerians have agreed that there is the need to rave up non-oil exports to earn forex to meet up international obligatory payments.
He said that Nigerian entrepreneurs want to build factories to process these agricultural produces into products like tomato paste, pineapple juice, cassava syrup, starch flour and feeds among others but that regrettably there is no electricity to power the plants, no finance facility with friendly product development programme, no security and no storage system
“Our environment presents multiple headwinds for a venture to turn our farm produce to products. If we turn them into products, they have value and improve our earning as export products.
“Many entrepreneurs who ventured along this path met with killer obstacles that cut short the life span of their business. Export of one forty feet container of yam tubers from Nigeria cannot earn as much income as the export of one twenty feet container of processed packs of yam flour,” he said.
The Managing Director, Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited said that the same analogy goes for other agricultural produce when turned into packaged products, adding that this, however, does not negate the necessity to do the first things first.
Nigeria, he asserted, must first of all produce enough to feed the Nigerian populace, produce extra to process into products, follow internationally accepted documentation in the process soil, fertilizer, spray and harvest, present the process for certification to build confidence in the produce in the international market arena.
Speaking further, he said, “We do not produce sufficient quantities to meet local demand. We cannot jump into exporting what we don’t have enough. When we produce sufficient to meet our consumption needs, we must encourage processing of products to add value.
“Note that we must first accept our products as fit for consumption through our agencies: National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control(NAFDAC) and Standard Organisation of Nigeria(SON).
“In international politics, foreign countries will always seek ways to downgrade your products and upgrade their own. Security and finance are critical success factors in achieving agricultural produce sufficiency with excess to process into products for export,” he said
On the export of produce, Akpan explained that the buying off of farm produce from farmers by local processing industries will not only guarantee return on investment for the farmers but that it would make small and medium scale farming lucrative ventures.
In his words, “Turning local farm produce into product for the market shelves adds value to farm produce, to logistics chains, the entrepreneurs, and the economy. The domestic off takers of the produce and the products are the platforms or the institutions that will source for the buyers in the international market.”