Mobilizing for a generational change

Agric export soars despite COVID-19

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus globally has taken a toll on the global economy, but non-oil export is soaring and providing a good return on investment, JULIANA AGBO writes

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria is witnessing an increasing demand for its agricultural products.

With the increase in demand on non-oil export, the country’s over-reliance on crude oil as main revenue earner will take another turn with agriculture, which will generally provide a good return on investment.

While the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has succeeded in sustaining exports, it has also assured that it will continue its efforts in addressing the logistical challenges facing exporters as well as promoting diversification of Nigeria’s agricultural export base.

The recent inauguration of a British Airways Cargo through a freight and forwarding company, Free On Board Global Logistics Limited, for exports to the United Kingdom, European Union Countries and the United States, will drive Nigeria’s agricultural development and expand its export.

The initiative in collaboration with the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Export Action Group (NEXAG) is already serving as a relief to exporters who must have been pondering how to convey their products to these destinations.

FOB Logistics Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Adebakin said over 60 tonnes of Nigerian non-perishable foods, such as yam, garri, fish and vegetables have been moved to London.

“Upon arrival in London, we are providing transhipment services across Europe to North America as well, and the interest is growing every day. For every flight, we are exceeding the performance of previous flight,” he said.

Adebakin, who noted that the firm has been supported by the NEPC and the Nigeria Export forum (NEF), reiterated the need to look inward as individuals, corporate entities and as a government to create the enabling environments for agriculture to thrive.

“With the support, we have gotten from NEPC, we see a change in the curve and we are seeing a change in the attitude.

“The only way we can support ourselves and the federal government of Nigeria is for us to look inwards as individuals, corporate entities and as a government to create the enabling environments.

“The Nigerian agricultural sector is replete with diverse opportunities. Being able to effectively harness these opportunities will drive agricultural development and expand agricultural export,” he added.

He went on: “COVID-19 has demonstrated to us that the Nigerian government cannot do everything. It is impossible. This effort has to be private-sector driven. And this is why we have made it a point of duty.

“COVID-19 has brought it home that we can no longer continue to depend on oil and people are taking the initiative to get involved in this Nigeria non-oil export drive.”

Analysing the challenges confronting Nigerian exporters, Adebakin said they lacked representation at the country of designation where they have sent their goods to, adding that they find themselves in a situation where they have invested all their money and somebody out there is selling their own.

“Currently, we only have four international cargo flights coming into Nigeria and this is subnormal for a nation of 200million people and these cargo flights are practically 99 per cent COVID-19 related materials they are bringing in,” he said.

Adebakin added that some products that were urgent need to be at the designation within three days, saying, “they move them by air, for items like crops we are moving those by sea.”

While noting that there is a huge demand in soya beans, he called for the removal of freight cost being payable in advance.

He said: “We are seeing a huge demand in soya beans and we are moving them by sea and that our value proposition is for NEPC and Nigeria Export Action Group would let us remove the shackle of the cost of freight being payable in advance because a lot of people will get involved in export if they know that the cost of freight will be payable upon the arrival of the shipment which is what we have proposed to NEPC.

“If we have the government backing, our partners globally are willing for us to sign an understanding with NEPC that we will carry freight out of Nigeria into the country of destination and it is upon the arrival of the Nigeria non-oil export that has been shipped from Nigeria that payment for freight will be due.

“This will relieve a lot of Nigerians, who are thinking on the fringes, let’s get involved in this export drive. If we can take that away, that will be a game-changer for Nigeria from the business of tomorrow and business of today.

“If you go to the supermarket now, you will see that prices are increasing. Most of the products selling at high cost are locally made products.

“This is a wake-up call and we are committed with our network globally and our cargo services align with offices in over 3,700 cities of the world in over 180 countries and they are all supporting our drive to provide not only custom clearance on the arrival of the shipment at the destination but they are also providing warehousing facilities, distribution facility and they have agreed to support Nigeria exporters to remit back their money.”

An exporter, Mr. Bamidele Ayemibo, commended the initiative saying that it has helped in shipments.

Ayemibo called for synergy between government and individuals to support the non-oil export drive.

“We have a lot of potential export growth across a range of key food commodities but we need to address key barriers if we are going to succeed.

“The country has the potential to generate a huge amount of money from the export of agricultural goods annually, this will greatly contribute to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he said.

Furthermore, the NEPC in its ‘Agric sector Economic Impact Assessment’ carried out recently, said Nigeria’s agricultural exports can be expanded in the long-term and this diversification will help avoid the ill effects of commodity price shocks.

Offering a critical look at three agricultural products where Nigeria has the potential to expand its exports, NEPC illustrated why a wider export portfolio was crucial.

“In 2019, Nigeria exports of ginger amounted to $10.4 million, which is by no means insignificant. However, in a market of close to $1 billion, there is evident space for Nigeria to increase its exports,” NEPC stated.

NEPC also reported that the price of Nigerian ginger has risen with the outbreak of the pandemic.

“This, in part, could be explained by a rise in demand for products with high nutritional value such as ginger. Nigeria would benefit from scaling up the production of ginger to take advantage of this opportunity.”

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