The Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFPGEAN) says between 55 per cent and 72 per cent of fresh produce grown in the country perish before they can be consumed.
The Executive Secretary of the association, Akin Sawyerr, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Monday that this was because fresh produce needed to be kept in refrigerated conditions soon after harvest.
Mr. Sawyerr said fresh produce were basically fruits and vegetables.
“Fresh produce production has the same challenges as other agricultural products but its uniqueness lies in its being very perishable.
“The issue with fresh produce in Nigeria is that there is little processing, no storage in refrigerated conditions due to lack of electricity (power) for most of the produce grown by farmers.
“We also cannot move these produce quickly from farms to supermarkets or hotels or airports, where they would be used because of poor road conditions,’’ he said.
The AGFPGEAN scribe, however, commended the Federal Government for its intention to concentrate on infrastructure in the 2017 budget, saying this was of utmost importance.
He said that Nigeria had about five times more arable land than Kenya but Kenya earned about a billion dollars in fresh produce exports to European markets annually, while Nigeria struggled to earn ten million dollars annually.
Mr. Sawyerr attributed this to lack of storage and poor farming methods.
He called on the government to ensure that its agencies and security personnel, usually encountered on the highways and at the borders, are efficient and effective in carrying out their tasks.
He said these bodies, many times, constitute roadblocks to fresh produce transportation.
“Time is valuable in the life of fresh produce.
“Where your competitor in Cameroun can do a journey in 20 minutes, you will use three hours on the road and speed is important to prevent these produce from spoiling.
“I am not talking about corruption here but about the need for these regulatory and security agencies to be sensitive and speedy in carrying out their tasks.
“This is of utmost importance,” Mr. Sawyerr said.
He stressed that the development of the fresh produce sector was dependent on some factors, and listed factors like power, roads, good seeds, good education in rural areas and strict regulation around farming methods.
Others, Mr. Sawyerr said, are access to finance, trade agreement with other countries, laws to do with local content, and regulations around what food products could be imported into Nigeria.
He stressed that the main aim of the association was to get farmers products to the market, wherever it might be, whether within Nigeria or outside, so those producers could actually get some return and a fair price on their efforts and investments.