Nigeria has failed to benefit from multibillion-dollar agricultural items exported from West Africa due to non-certification of its farm produce such as yam, mangoes, shrimps, garlic, ginger and others.
Ghana, Cameroon, Mali and other countries have been benefitting from the export of their farm produce such as plantain, mangoes, yam, which Ghana in 2021 generated about GH¢50 billion worth of farm produce.
These countries have met the conditions for Good Agricultural Products (GAP) certification of the European Union, UK and some US states. They have also met the Sanitary Citification and Good Agricultural Sector Certification of many EU countries and other Western markets, but Nigeria is yet to be certified by these countries.
It was learnt that this has affected the volume of farm produce exported from Nigeria, such that Nigerian produce cannot be sold at the superstores of the UK and other parts of Europe.
Nigeria exports small volume of farm produce that are consumed largely by Nigerians living overseas; it is yet to benefit from the yawning markets for African farm produce, which are now in high demand in the Western nations.
THISDAY gathered that Nigeria has more farm produce to export than many of its neighbours and these include ginger, palm kernel, palm oil, cocoa butter, sesame seed, honey, shrimps, garlic and others.
Industry stakeholder and Director, Operations, Cargolux Airlines, Kingsley Nwokoma, told THISDAY that because Nigeria does not have the certifications for farm produce it is losing huge revenue in foreign exchange projected to be over $1 billion per annum.
“Most of the superstores in Europe have started selling most African farm produce and before they will buy your produce the must make sure you meet their safety conditions. We have what they call traceability. They follow you to your farm and make sure you abide by the stringent conditions to ensure that what you produce meet their health standard. This is because if anyone comes to their stores and buys those produce and get killed they will be sued and they pay huge compensations. So the food is traced to the farms. The superstores know the fertilizer you must use and they will follow you up to harvest. Unfortunately, we lack this process,” Nwokoma who is also the President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria (AFRAN), said.
Nwokoma also lamented the lope-sided cargo import where huge cargoes come from different parts of the world to Nigeria but not much is exported from Nigeria, noting that if the country has developed its agri-produce to meet international markets, Nigeria would export as much as they import and that would be good in balance of trade and enhance stability in foreign exchange.
He regretted that deterioration of Nigeria’s economy, the blocked foreign airlines revenue from Nigeria and the inability of Nigeria to boost her export have had a huge toll on cargo freighting in the country.
“For the past couple of years there has been interconnectivity between cargo and passenger. The same airlines that own cargo planes also own the passenger planes. They use their passenger aircraft to airlift cargo in their bellies. So lots of cargo is freighted by schedule passenger aircraft. We also have strictly cargo carriers. Some of them have 50-100 aircraft in their fleet and do all-round world operations. We have freighter carriers coming to Nigeria. Nigeria is a big market because we have the population and we are import dependent country. Some of them are no more coming to Nigeria because of the blocked funds.
“In those days people do purely cargo because Nigeria has oil and gas industry and rigs parts are freighted to Nigeria, but today, such cargo carriers don’t come to Nigeria; unless they are on charter. We now move exports through the belly of commercial airlines. So, all the freighter operations are gone,” he said.
He said that Nigeria is losing because she does not have enough to export, so cargo carriers that come to Nigeria even on charter will have to go to another country in Africa to pick cargo to export to other regions of the world.
“They go to Kenya to pick flowers for export to Europe or they go to Ghana to pick yams or Mali to pick mangoes or Ivory Coast for plantain and bananas. Most of the cargo carriers that used to come to Nigeria now go to Asia-Pacific region where they make so much money. Why should they come to Nigeria or Africa and fly from one country to another to pick cargo. Every country you fly to you pay for cargo landing fee and pay cargo royalties; you pay for parking and navigational charges. So they pay for multiple charges when they come to Africa,” he said.
Nwokoma urged the federal government to push for the certification of Nigerian farm produce and also sit down with foreign airlines and discuss their trapped funds. He said that the trapped fund is de-marketing Nigeria.
Speaking recently about creating market for Nigerian farm produce, the Managing Director and CEO of ABX World Limited, Captain John Okakpu, said Nigeria had not been positioned as the ‘real’ stakeholder for agro-export.
He said Nigeria’s participation in the agricultural value chain, depended on the effectiveness and implementation of government policies, especially in the agricultural sector.
He added that Nigeria could benefit immensely from Africa Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that would soon form a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, which Nigeria cannot afford to be left out of.
According to him, available reports show that trade between African nations in agricultural products as a percentage of Africa’s total agricultural trade remains below 20 per cent long, one of the lowest in any region.
He said total trade between African nations was only two per cent in the period 2015–2017, compared with 67 per cent in trade between European countries, 61 per cent in Asian countries, and 47 per cent in the Americas, according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
“Now, AfCFTA intends to change the narrative. It has created the world’s largest free trade area, representing the 1.2 billion consumer market, and mandates states to remove tariffs and non-tariffs in order to boost shipments and services between nations, and boost economic growth in doing so, ”Okakpu said.