COLEACP to support Nigeria’s export drive for fresh produce
…Launches €25m ´Fit For Market+´ initiative
The Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP) has said it will provide technical support to operators and regulators in Nigeria’s horticulture industry upon demand to help boost the country’s export of horticulture produce.
Wester Schepers, senior project manager – technical assistance, COLEACP during the launch of the ‘Fit For Market Plus (FFM+) in Lagos recently noted that to ensure that horticulture products within Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific Islands (ACP) countries are safe for consumption and of high quality, COLEACP through funding from the European Union is providing technical assistance and capacity building programs for countries.
“We support the horticulture industry in ACP countries to become more resilient, sustainable, and profitable for its member countries,” he said.
“Upon demand, we work together with companies, service providers, regulators, and associations to help export of fresh produce become sustainable while looking for new markets regionally or globally.”
“Mostly, it is to ensure that the products produced are safe for consumption and are of high quality either for local markets or exports,” he added.
In Nigeria, he noted that talks are currently ongoing with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) upon request to put in place an SPS system that controls products certification and ensure that whatever leaves the country meets standards and requirements of exporting countries.
He stated that ensuring standards is not only the responsibility of the regulators but mainly of the operators, adding that COLEACP works with smallholder farmers in the country through their respective associations.
“We are having conversations with NAFDAC and NAQS to identify their certain needs and issues they have regarding horticulture,” he said.
Schepers said COLEACP is currently working only in the fruits and vegetable value chain of the country, noting that plans are ongoing to expand into the spices value chain.
“To export fresh products, Nigeria needs to manage its cold chain, quality and increase access to information. Not every stakeholder has access to up-to-date information and training.’’
Speaking on the Fit For Market+ launch, he said the initiative builds on COLEACP’S 20-year history of implementing development programmes, adding that it is a five-year project of €25 million.
“This new five-year, €25 million programme – “Fit For Market+ will support actors in the horticulture value chain to mitigate the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time to seize new market opportunities by embracing green, low-carbon, climate-resilient strategies through developing and adopting relevant practices, skills and technologies.”
According to him, COLEACP has worked with 70 individual stakeholders within the industry since 2017 when it entered Nigeria, noting it has resulted in over 200 training for participants and 36 implemented tailor-made support activities.
Akintunde Sawyerr, president of the Fresh Produce Growers and Export Association of Nigeria (AFGEAN) said the association facilitated the entry of COLEACP into the country to train operators in the horticulture industry on food safety standards.
According to him, the decision to work with COLEACP came as a result of the recognition that Nigeria could play a much bigger role in the export of fresh agricultural produce.
“COLEAP has consistently supported many operators in the horticulture industry for over 10 years now.”
Sawyerr noted that their support has been beneficial to the country and it has helped in improving standards and providing relevant information for exporters exporting into Europe.
He stated that the discovery of crude oil has distracted the nation from realizing opportunities in other sectors, noting that the neglect of agriculture is responsible for the country’s low export volumes of fresh produce.
He noted that things are changing in the industry and if sustained, the country will begin to earn much FX from fresh produce exports.