More Nigerians have been advised to consider agro exportation as a pivotal step toward positioning Nigeria as the breadbasket of the African continent. The charge came from the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), Indranil Gupta. Citing a high demand for Nigerian agro produce across Africa and the need to address the existing supply gap, Gupta urged citizens to embrace export opportunities as soon as possible, particularly to bridge the supply gap.
Encouraging a shift from import-dependence, Gupta stressed the need for seizing intercontinental and intracontinental opportunities, starting with the African market. He envisioned Nigeria’s potential to create wealth and boost the nation’s GDP through agro exports. Gupta unveiled NAHCO’s export processing centre in Lagos, the first of five planned across strategic locations in Nigeria. These centres according to him, aim to streamline export processes, connecting farmers and middlemen to global markets and standardising the export processing system. Recognising Nigeria’s fertile land and farming potentials, Gupta called for the adoption of strategies that add value to agricultural produce while highlighting NAHCO’s role in linking farmers to export markets, aiming to reduce the country’s 95% import dependency.
In his reaction, the Chief Executive Officer, Folawale Integrated Nigeria Limited and Principal Consultant, Folawale Services Consult, Osun State, stated that “Nigeria being one of the 4th highest cashew nut producer in Africa and 3rd highest in West Africa, can benefit more from such investment, because as of today, cashew nuts earned the highest non-oil foreign exchange for our country behind cocoa and sesame seed with just production around 300,000 metric tonnes”. He listed some of the limitations for investors in this area to include:
1. Seasonal shortage of cashew, which makes its nut market to quickly loose market value when not in season, but once NAHCO is here to bridge the gap, more investors will be sure of having an all-year-round market for their cashew nuts, during the glut period of March and April.
2. High cost of packaging materials: The cost of jute bags used in packaging dry cashew nuts are just too high and it makes most buyers to use low quality fish bags and polythene, which reduces the quality from farm gate area to the terminal or port warehouse, but if NAHCO is ready to buy this risk making sure good packaging materials are made available in the country, the quality of our commodities will be more enhanced and can have an extended shelf life during storage.
3. Logistic problems: If indeed, NAHCO is ready to have five other markets in various parts of the country, it will bridge the gap of not only exorbitant levies and charges in transporting the commodities from production areas across the country, but will also reduce the theft and pilfering risk on roads due to our bad roads, and the touts that are all out to extort buyers.
4. Storage facilities: Investment in big storage facilities in all NAHCO centre’s will go a long way to solve the problem of warehousing for portfolio investors across the world that are in the country to patronise Nigeria’s cashew, but also ensure their comfort and good business environment.
With the above problem solved, Mr. Toriola Tokunbo, who has about 19 years experience in the agro-commodities supply chain business production, opined that NAHCO’s goal can be achieved because the land area is there for more cultivation, he concluded. Despite economic challenges, Gupta further expressed optimism that improved purchasing power among Nigerians would positively impact air passenger traffic and further boosting the export sector. NAHCO’s planned N1 billion investment in cargo export at major airports and the collaboration with security agencies, has underscored the commitment to expanding and securing the nation’s agro-export industry.