Bridging the huge gap which currently exists between the mass production of farm produce, not only in Nigeria but across the African continent and the bustling business market literally waiting to be tapped in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) is the noble and patriotic task which Crenov8 has taken upon its shoulders, since 2017. It could not have come at a better time that the present administration has hinged its economic drive on the diversification from crude oil production and sales. But some questions are begging for answers.
For instance, how do you feel when you get to know that Nigeria leads the world in the production of cassava tubers but it is not listed as one of the top ten exporters because we do not meet international standards? Or, that more advanced countries are utilizing our cassava to produce bio-degradable plastic bags but we are still hooked unto polythene bags? But that is not all.
The fact that Nigeria ranks as the world’s second largest producer of ginger after India but China buys quantum amount from us and has made billions in US Dollars from its export should be food-for-thought for us all. According to Bola Oyedele, the brilliant brain who is the Consultant with Cenovate8, only last year a demand was made for ginger during the Meet the Farmers Conference in Dubai, running into millions of dollars but no Nigerian was able to meet the demand! But a Chinese man did by obtaining the quantity demanded from some Northern states in Nigeria and going ahead to supply such after due processing, according to standard specifications. Yet, there is more cause for serious concern.
In his candid view, Prince Ajibola Oluyede, the Chairman of NICERT Ltd, that is into food standardization, stated that as at 2002 over 52 % of Nigerians were actively engaged in profitable agriculture but fast forward to 2015 and the figure has dropped to 22%. Between then and 2018 the figure has risen by a minimal 2%.
Indeed, some Nigerian food products, including beans are being rejected in the international market because they do not meet the Federal Law No 10 of 2015 based on acceptable global standards. Though 36.6% of Nigerians, representing 90 million people are said to be presently engaged in farming (including both profitable and non-profitable types), they are not adding enough value to the Value Chain-from cultivation, production, processing to preservation, storage and marketing. That is where Crenov8 Consulting comes in handy.
As a leading Management and Digital Firm based in Dubai it has been actively engaged in hosting the Meet the Farmers Conference(MTFC) since 2017.The veritable platform it provides as a meeting point between farmers and the international market is a first- of- its- kind agro-trade and networking conference.
So good that over the past two years it has expanded its frontier to engage 12 African countries from four when it started. The theme of this year’s conference is: “Creating a Sustainable Future; Food Security, Trade and Technology.” How apt! To underscore the significance of this topic, consider the fact that the world’s population is expected to double by 2050. So, what does that teach us? That more food will have to be produced and given the immense natural resources of vast arable land, predominantly agrarian people with an evolving technology, agriculture and a modern one at that is the way to go.
In precise terms, Oyedele the consultant was inspired in 2016 coming across the report of a research that showed that Dubai in the UAE imports 80 per cent of its food needs worth $100 billion, mostly from Africa, specifically Nigeria! And wait for this-that the value of such will explode to $400 billion over the next six years. “Wow!” She must have exclaimed. This is a gold mine waiting to be explored. If only she could access 1% of that, it would amount to $1bn or over N300bn!
So, why not connect the producers to the waiting market? All you have to do is Create and Innovate. That inspired Crenov8 Consulting and Management company and here we are today talking about the Third edition of MTFC.
Over the years she got to know much more about the trade gap between Nigeria and the UAE. Nigeria ranks 6th in terms of agricultural produce, meaning that “Africa can feed the world”, a slogan she has latched on. What with 30 million hectares of land under cultivation in the continent. But then, Nigeria has not maximized her huge potentials when it comes to exports of agric products. Cocoa beans, the highest of its food exports has a paltry 1.4% of the global market. When it comes to exports in that critical sector, India is the biggest player worth $8.55billion, with the US coming second at $6.68 bn as at 2018.
Even with the deliberate input by funding through the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and the Bank of Industry(BoI) as well as the federal government increasing budgetary allocation to N118billion the trade deficit is still huge. In fact, Ethiopia plays more when it comes to agric exports. Dubai, which has become the export and tourism hub of the world and exports 70% of the food it imports from Nigeria to the neighbouring Omar and Bahrain has many Free Trade Zones. Its infrastructure and the ease of doing business are upscale.
In spite of our strengths when it comes to vast arable land, large population and the capacity to produce raw food items, we still lag behind in other aspects of the Value Chain, such as processing, preservation, storage and of course marketing. For instance, 40 % of our farm produce rot away at the rural farms. We also need to upgrade the type of seedlings we plant. Our tomatoes have more water content than expected at the international market. This demands much exertion of energy when it comes to processing. So, what is the way forward?
Some expert stakeholders proffered some workable solutions at the recent Official Launch and Media Briefing. These include Mrs. Esther Adebayo, MD/CEO of JIMEST Investment Ltd who is also an exporter to the Us and Canada; Prince Ajibola Oluyede, Chairman of NICERT Ltd, Babatunde Rusewe of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Graham Leslie, the Country Manager, Dizengoff. The FarmCrowdy Group made an input. They highlighted the need to synergize more with the rural farmers to identify their challenges. They need to be assisted to apply modern technology in virtually all the areas of the value chain, in addition to pest control, access to the international market and beefing up their security.
One cannot but salute the committment of Crenov8 company for its consistency to meets its mandate. According to Mark Olorundare, its General Manager,” This year, the conference places particular focus on translated trade deals and looks to promote the export of agricultural produce from different African countries to the UAE”. Furthermore, it will keep supporting Agri Technology Entrepreneurship in Africa”. As Modupe Oyetoso, CEO, Smart Farms and the first winner of the maiden edition of Innov8Agric Challenge, 2018 rightly stated, the company has assisted her to empower some rural farmers with funds and technical expertise.
And this is what matters most for the farmers. Kudos, Crenov8!