The United States of America, through the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA/Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) has expressed its commitment to the growth and development of the Nigerian retail business toward a sustainable and attractive economy.
The Department is also partnering indigenous experts and the National Association of Supermarket Operators of Nigeria (NASON), to train operators and chart on way forward for the industry, especially in the areas of food handling and safety.
According to the Department, there is a new trend in the retail space whereby consumers have shifted from purchasing food products at the traditional, open-air market to patronising modern temperature-controlled supermarket and convenience store as well as the need to equip operators with required knowledge to meet up with latest trends and operate within global standards.
Speaking at a workshop that brought together operators, regulators and stakeholders in the retail sector, Regional Agricultural Counselor, Embassy of the USA, Mr. Jude Akhidenor explained that Nigeria maintained a good relationship with the US in the area of exporting and selling of US based products. He said the initiative was important to deepen the bond between the parties and also increase knowledge.
“We seek to spread knowledge and skills to improve the handling of food products sold in modern temperature -controlled supermarket and convenience store to consumers. Operators would also gain knowledge of developing and building business relationship with food products suppliers from across the globe”, he added.
In his speech titled: ‘Nigeria Retail Food Sector, Trends, Challenges and Opportunities, National Chairman of NASON, Asiwaju Solomon Onafowokan disclosed that Nigeria is still about 75% of what is expected from all formal supermarket operators, pointing out that engagement of this nature would improve its status.
“With the proliferation of retail outlets in all state capitals and major cities, there are clear indices to show that the sector is now becoming entrenched with masters of the industry becoming exposed to world class training and proper foregrounding, thereby making the business no longer an all comers trade venture”, he said.
Despite the prospects in the sector which are not limited to employment opportunities, investments and business expansion, Onafowokan lamented that the sector is still very much constrained by the unfriendly business environment and workers unfaithfulness.
He noted that, “the global listing agreement entered into between NAFDAC and the association as well as the self -regulatory process embarked upon by its members has had tremendous impact on emerging shopping malls now abound all over the country, which has led many shoppers gradually moving from traditional open- market food purchases to organised food stores that guaranteed temperature controlled ‘ Food Handling Safety Net’ for their purchases.”
President of Bervidson Retail Group, Mr. Joseph Ebata, explained that despite the trends in food market, Nigeria’s retail food sector remains under developed and poorly managed whilst many discerning food suppliers across the world are now concerned about handling and distribution of their products to consumers.
“Issues such as food safety, nutrition and consumers rights/ protection are also increasingly becoming the major focus of discussion in global food businesses. There is need to transform significantly towards adopting the modern and evolving consumer food distribution and system that address these global issues. More importantly, the welfare of retail staff should be taken as paramount”, he said.