Monday, 22 August 2016

Agric: Nigeria can emerge as vegetables export giant

Boosting productivity, fostering competitiveness, ensuring food security and making sure that small-scale farmers have greater access to markets should be the key to Nigerian government in realising its full agricultural potential.
The era of oil boom has gone and it is high time government started developing the natural potential to support cultivation of exportable vegetables and fruits, including other cash crops, to the global markets. Nigeria’s farmers estimate to make about N12 billion from exporting vegetables and this is projected to rise to N40 billion by 2018 if government at various levels give farmers the right incentives.
According to official data in 2013, the country’s exports were worth $46.32 billion, of which $3.83 billion came from vegetables and fruits to Europe and America. Recently, the Anambra State Governor, Willy Obiano, disclosed that the state became the first in Nigeria to export vegetables (Ugu and Onugbu) valued at $5 million to Europe. This means that other states that have potential to grow the produce should encourage their farmers and give them inputs to grow the produce.
This is because the demands for agricultural produce are huge overseas as millions of Africans and Nigerians are demanding these produce everyday. Not just vegetables and fruits alone but also other produce like fried fish, beans, yam and crayfish, among others. Vegetables can be grown successfully in Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun and Benue among others.
Kenyan vegetables and horticultural exports are cited as a success story in African agriculture but many believe Nigerian farmers can do better. The serial feats of coordination, discipline, productivity, manual labour and government support made Kenyan vegetable and horticulture competitive in global markets.
Nigeria has an advantage because fruits and vegetables can be grown on a wide range of vegetations, from small farms with less than two hectares using family labour to large-scale commercial farms with over 100 hectares and advanced technology.
Vegetables comprise green pepper, carrot, lettuce and cucumber but there are six high premium indigenous vegetable species like local celery (woorowo), local amaranth (teteatetedaye), fluted pumpkin (ugu), African nightshade (odu), eggplant (igbagba) and scarlet eggplant (ogunmo). All these vegetables are planted here in Nigeria and are all good for export if farmers adopt international standard.
Daily Sun learnt that with increased yields, previously marginalised rural women farmers now realise an average income of about $3,376 in a year from the sale of indigenous vegetables.
The Managing Director of Anagro Consult, Mrs. Mope Omotoso, said that there is export potential for agricultural produce in Nigeria but government is not focusing on them, adding that there is need to help farmers with inputs such as tax holidays, provision of some facilities like water, roads, providing land and training farmers on technology improvements in land preparation, seeding rates, staking technology, seed treatment and pest control.
For those states that have potential for vegetable, she urged them to encourage their farmers to do it by providing inputs, training them on standard so that those produce would be of international standard.
She advised: “States should look at every area where they have comparative advantage and focus on it. It may not be everybody that will grow vegetable but whichever area a state has advantage on, like Benue where they have yam, fruits and soybean it should be encouraged. Whichever crop they have advantage on, they should focus on it and encourage people to go into it.”

On the documents that vegetable farmers need to obtain in order to ensure that their produce meet international standard, she explained: “The farmers should approach the Export Promotion Council (NEPC) where they would be advised. Packaging is also a standard. If they approach NEPC, farmers will have standard requirement because NEPC also helps to link with buyers overseas and take up all the terms.”
“On tax holidays, it is not only vegetable farmers that need to be encouraged but other people need to be given support as well. When you are going into agriculture really, there is incubation period and there should be some incentives for farmers to go into it because on the long run, it is going to be of advantage to the nation. There should be tax holidays for exportable products as well as input for people to go into such ventures,” she explained.

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