By Chris Ochayi
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has charged Nigerians to key into the great potentials in global market and brings into reality government efforts to export fresh produce to other countries of the world.
Akinwumi said this while receiving the Ambassadors of Ireland and Belgium, who were led by the Executive Secretary of Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers & Exporters Association of Nigeria, AFGEAN, Akin Sawyerr, in Abuja. He noted that Nigeria with 84 million hectares of arable land, has a great potential in fresh produce. He said the goal of Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) is to turn Nigeria to an industrialised economy by making agriculture a straight line business.
According to the minister, Nigeria’s potential in horticulture is very high, as the country is the second highest producer of Citrus in the World after China; number one producer of pineapple in Africa as well as major producer of mangoes, tomatoes, etc. He added, “as the largest producer of most of these produce, we must get to the global market, we as a government, have developed 14 Staple Crops Processing Zones, SCPZ.”
On the issue of exporting fresh produce, the minister said “it is important to have a market strategy, an investment plan, a well coordinated strategy on how we are going to play in the global market. We need to deploy a Research and Development (R&D) system that does not allow us only to produce but to give what people want”.
He said plans are underway to create what he called “Trade & Marketing Corporation” which would be modeled after Kenya’s Horticulture Development Authority (HDA). The Trade & Marketing Corporation would be expected to coordinate the work of horticulture for domestic and international market, Adesina added.
He averred that Nigeria’s late entry into the horticulture market does not mean it would not make an impact; “Ethiopia entered the horticulture market as a late comer but got things right, so we have to be aggressive in brand marketing of produce coming out of Nigeria”.
Akinwumi said government is making efforts to ensure that DHL Aircraft that brings goods to Nigeria no longer fly back empty as it would henceforth take back to Europe Nigeria’s fresh produce.
To achieve this, he said a lot needs to be done in respect of development of a well coordinated strategy that would bring about institutional arrangement and research and development that would support horticulture. The strategy, according to him, would guide the country in understanding the demands of other countries.
He said there is need to identify what fresh produce to import as well as knowing what variety to grow, what time of the year it would be needed in order to ensure that production is based on demands. In making this reality, he said the ministry is to work with EU, AFGEAN and Horticulture Value Chain group and also put in place a major investment meeting on export of fresh produce on inter-ministerial level.
This, he said, would include Ministries of Finance and Aviation among others. The minister expressed Nigeria’s gratitude to EU and DFID for supporting Nigeria Horticulture drive and he called on them to deepen the relationship while appealing to EU to assist the country in terms of technical assistance.