Perishable Goods Freighting as Boost for Agriculture Investment

Perishable Goods Freighting as Boost for Agriculture Investment

Chinedu Eze

It has been established that if Nigeria maximises food production, agriculture will replace oil and gas as major source of foreign exchange, but to make this possible farmers and middlemen must find easier ways of freighting farm produce to both local and international markets.

Aviators conversant with air freighting of cargo have posited that the major setback Nigeria faces in maximising the benefits of its agricultural produce is the failure of quick distribution of perishables.

Farm yields from farms in many areas, especially in the core north and middle belt take longer time to reach huge markets like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onitsha and other cities where they are largely consumed.

This is attributed to mode of transport of these perishables and aviation industry stakeholders have suggested that the Ministry of Aviation should collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture to evacuate farm produce by air instead of the tortuous road movement, which makes most of the produce lose their freshness and sometimes get rotten before they reach their destination markets.

In a recent interview with farmers and middle men who move the farm produce, they disclosed that with the drastic devaluation of the naira, it cost about N4 million per trailer to move farm produce from Kebbi to Lagos and this include cost of diesel, put at over N2 million and N600, 000 for bribes to security operatives and other logistics, including feeding for a trip that may last four to five days.

Broken roads, endless checkpoints and other hindrances cause delays in the movement of these perishables that it would become more economical to freight them by air than transporting them by road so that they will retain their freshness on arrival at the destined markets.

This reality has prompted aviation industry stakeholders to call on the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to retain and implement the recommendations of Avia Cargo Committee set up by the former Managing Director of FAAN, Captain RabiuYadudu, and find ways to boost the volume of export of farm produce through the airports to enable Nigeria take advantage of its huge agriculture potential to earn foreign exchange and boost the nation’s GDP.

Former General Manager, Business Development, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nuhu Imam Adam, told THISDAY that as Nigeria looked to diversify its economy, it was time we reappraise our position on agro perishable goods.

“Unfortunately, the value chain logistics is one of the major barriers. Gladly, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, recently announced the creation of Cargo Directorate at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. With this, the authority should be able to improve and unlock the logistics barrier and improve agro cargo export efficiently and cost effectively, making our export not only regionally but globally competitive. This can be done in partnership with critical stakeholders in having the goods move from farm to designated  airports around the country,” Adam said.

The Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan reiterated the need for FAAN’s new management continue with Aviacargo programme.

“The following organizations and associations need to unify their processes of exports from Nigerian airports, they are: foreign Airlines, Nigeria Aviation Cargo Handling Plc, Skyway Aviation Handling Plc, Association of Nigeria Licensed Agents (ANCLA), NAFDAC, Nigeria Quarantine Services, Nigeria Customs Service and Nigerian Association of Freight Forwarders and Consolidators.

“We need one form entered electronically that encapsulates all information, clearances, and certificates required for an export shipment. Let the Ministry of Trade liaise with Ministry of External Affairs to produce a catalogue of approved certifications required by countries we export our non oil products.

“These certificates stand as barrier to acceptance of our products/produce in the issuing countries. For example, certification required for entry of dried fish into Europe is different from the certification required in United States of America. It is also different from that of UK. So it is relevant to have such information at the disposal of exporters, brokers/agents, the handling companies, and the airlines,” he said.

Akpan also warned that the number of government agencies checking and collecting fees per kilo/per package of export shipment were becoming too many, noting that they make the cost of shipping too expensive and this makes the price of Nigerian products/produce very high and not competitive.

The President of Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria who is also the Managing Director, Merchant Express Cargo Airlines, Dr. Kingsley Nwokoma, told THISDAY that government remained a continuum and therefore should retain positive policies aimed at propelling the aviation agencies and the country forward.

He said it was good that the immediate former Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. Kabir Mohammed retained the AviaCargo Committee and encouraged it to advance the way it did, which culminated to the establishment of cargo village at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

Nwokoma said currently Kenya remained number one among the African countries that export agri produce overseas, followed by South Africa and Nigeria being number five and insisted that looking at Nigeria’s climate from mangrove to the Savanna and massive fertile soil, becoming number one needs intentional execution of the recommendations of the Avia Cargo Committee.

“The committee incorporated core people in the business of cargo export. FAAN has General Managers Cargo and Commercial as members of the committee and these can update the new Managing Director of the agency. They are supposed to brief her on what the committee has done so far.

On the distribution of perishables from the farms to local and international markets, Nwokoma said air freighting remained the best option to move farm produce from the farms in Kebbi, Plateau, Benue, Adamawa and other states to the markets where they are consumed, remaking that the perishables will be fresh on arrival when delivered through air freighting.

“They should encourage the establishment of cargo airline with small cargo planes that can move these farm produce at minimal cost, which when compared to road transport will be more cost effective. We have to know this fact that oil and gas is gone. The next big thing that will happen to Nigeria is agriculture as means of foreign exchange and boost to Nigeria’s GDP.

“There are things state government that want its citizens to benefit from export of farm produce must help the farmers do. These include certification and traceability. All farm produce must be traced in case anything happens. For example, if Abakaliki rice gets to Salisbury in London, they consider the provenance, packaging, certification. Every market has to certify the produce and this is why packaging is also key,” he said.

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