Nigeria can generate over $3billion annually in the next two years from perishable farm produce export to Europe and other destinations with good freight system, recommended farm input and packaging.
The Managing Director/ CEO of ABX World Nigeria Limited, Captain John Okakpu, whose company is into export of vegetables and other farm produce to Europe through air freighting, made the remark.
Okakpu said currently Kenya exports about $1 billion worth of vegetables per annum to Europe but Nigeria has better climate, has variety of farm produce and can generate and export perishable goods than any other country in Africa.
According to him, this is the most viable alternative to the dwindling oil revenue adding that in farming more people are engaged so it would boost employment and in addition put money in the pockets of ordinary people. “So it is a means of delivering grassroots people from poverty”, he added.
On how to actualise this objective, Okakpu said state governors should embrace agriculture programme and support their citizens, noting that for instance, Anambra State has embraced the agriculture programme and the state has started exporting pumpkin leaves and other farm produce overseas. He said the state government should empower their people who engage in agriculture and some states that have goods that are highly sought after like the special pepper from Nsukka, known as yellow pepper, should develop and grow them in commercial quantity for export.
“The bottom line is the leadership. We had a discussion with the governor of Anambra state. I gave them proposal and they approved it and we agreed to work together. The agreement was that they needed to train and empower their people. For other people to be attracted to come and do business, create some kind of subsidy. And the governor agreed to this proposal. We first had to train first to enable people meet up to some certain standards to enable them to export their products. The government needs to empower its people and look at their social needs based on the standards of the international community.” Okakpu said.
He noted that if every state government is willing to empower its citizens with N100 million, it will make positive turnaround in the lives of the beneficiaries because they will become exporters of farm produce that will generate huge revenues for them.
Okakpu narrated how the people of Enugu state are preparing to grow yellow pepper or Nsukka pepper all year round in order to meet its demand in Europe.
“I had a discussion with Enugu state government about exporting yellow pepper. I have invested so much in this area, taken a lot of engineers there, they did a lot of survey but the importers said the problem is with sustaining the produce, or else they will not be interested. “So, we had to look for a way to make it sustainable. They are here now and we have brought them to Nigeria for training. We have gone to Nsukka, spent weeks and nights.
I slept with the farmers in their houses to see how we can make this work and we found a solution. Their problem is water. When there is no rain, what happens next? We called engineers all the way from Benin and they came to Nsukka and spent four days. They went to all the areas and they came up with a solution. We set up ten boreholes.
“The next was manure. American and Europeans like organic products. Natural manures can go a long way and they use poultry feeds but the best form of manure is fish waste. So, we thought we could get the borehole, set up a fishery where we can raise fish; we sell the fish and drain the water. The water drained will provide manure for the pepper. A lot of people are ready to set up fish farms; we have manures from the fish farms,” he said.
It is projected that by next year the area would start exporting yellow pepper in commercial quantity to Europe and the US. Okakpu noted also that every state has some variety of farm produce to export to the world if the state governments could give their support.