Experts in air freighting have listed the major barriers stopping Nigeria from significantly profiting from the export of its agricultural produce, including getting the right certification.
They alleged that the unscrupulous action of government agencies like Customs, NAFDAC and others, have continued to frustrate the easy movement of exports as obtained in other countries, and have proffered solutions to address the challenges.
They expressed worry that international standardisation, inefficient regulation, corruption and hiccups in cargo freighting from the nation’s airports are pitted against many Nigerians who wish to take advantage of the huge market for Nigerian farm produce, as the world yearns for Nigeria’s organic foods, regretting that many cargo planes and vessels that come to Nigeria to bring goods leave the country empty.
Industry stakeholder and Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of ABX World Nigeria, Captain John Okakpu, expressed fears about the inability of Nigerian farmers to secure certification for their produce and other countries in West and Central Africa are dominating Nigeria in the export of those produce, which Nigeria is the highest producers in the world, including yam and cassava.
“This ugly scenario will stop once Nigeria starts getting our farmers certified and their produce traceable. Government, (Federal and States) need to jump-start this opportunity by creating the enabling environment for Nigerian people. Between 1,000 – 10,000 farmers certified and their produce traceable will go a long way. I believe this will be much better than the billions and trillions of Naira programed or already given to farmers, according to different MDAs, as incentives and grants that had showed little or no impact. It will cost the governments just about N25 billion to train about 10,000 farmers to certifications and their produce traceable. This will completely put a permanent stop to aircraft and ocean vessels leaving or departing Nigeria shores empty. It will also create millions of much needed jobs for the youths and women. Pls hold me 100 per cent responsible on this suggestion. We are completely lacking the basics in standard and sustainable agro export that is why most of our exports are rejected. I mean the basics and not reading of lengthy literatures on agriculture nor attending conferences/workshops. Farmers are the ones and main solution to agro rejections. We can continue beating around the bush, once we are tired, we must do the needful and that is positioning our farmers,” he said.
Captain Okeakpu said in different African countries, government had seen agro produce as means of getting the highly sought-after foreign exchange and also empowering their citizens economically and they have invested in training their citizens on how to maximise the opportunity of meeting the international standards in their produce.
“Go to most countries and see how their farmers are being prepared to overcome issues. However, here in Nigeria is a totally different familiar route, shortcut. Kenya, for instance, is leading the African continent with over 3,000 certified and traceable Global GAP farmers, followed by South Africa in the neighbourhood of 2,000, Egypt, then Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Uganda who have about 1,000 each. Meanwhile, other small African countries such as Cameroon, Togo, Republic of Benin, Senegal and even Rwanda, has each, at least 10 or more. In the case of Nigeria, the giant of Africa, your guess is as good as mine, we have maybe one,” he said.
Another major challenge Nigerian is having is that government officials who inspect the produce for export both by seas and air constitute obstacle to seamless export of agro produce. They delay these perishables and destroy many of them all in the bid to extort money from exporters. Government has been made away that Quarantine, Customs, NDLEA, NAFDAC and others have constituted strong barriers to Nigeria competing effectively with others in Africa to export agro produce and create jobs for her citizens.
THISDAY monitored twitter discussion over the challenge of exporting farm produce from Nigeria among clearing agents. Twitter account holder @borie_nla confirmed that 80 per cent of the containers on the ship that arrive Nigeria leave the country empty and noted, “The reasons isn’t because there aren’t produce to be exported, but the principalities and powers stronger than any witch or wizard the world has ever seen either factual or fiction. Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), NDLEA, NAFDA, EFCC, DSS, Nigeria Customs, Nigeria police, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Export Processing Council (NEPC), all these agencies and others all demand to be part of the inspection of agricultural produce export, when an electric scanner does it once. These are the outcome; not even the economic loss alone,” he said.
He explained further, “Let me use yam as an example, a 20feet container will take about 1, 240 tubers of yam packed with each yam cleaned and wrapped individually in polypropylene bags. Please guess waiting time before export at a Nigerian port? Minimum waiting time at Nigerian port is 75 days. Yam and tubers generally don’t do well in humid conditions, even though it is packed. Now, imagine it being in saline humid environment before shipping? But in Ghana, it is three days. These all add to spoilage and unacceptability. So by the time Nigerian Yams get anywhere in the world, especially Europe and America , you’ve lost over 68 per cent due to the greed , wickedness , irresponsibility and nonchalance of our civil service. Nigerians would rather transport their Yams to Ghana and export from there.”
Another clearing agent said: “We are the highest producer of cassava worldwide, but can’t even get a leg into the door of global market. Cassava from DRC Congo is airlifted to Brussels, but here they will kill you with anti-business attitude and greed.”