Nigeria must address post-harvest losses to drive agric growth – Experts
For Nigeria to stabilize and drive growth in its agricultural sector, it must adopt technologies and initiate effective policies to address post-harvest losses stifling food security, experts in the cold chain industry have said.
The experts who spoke at the third West Africa Cold Chain Summit and Exhibition (WACCSE) co-hosted by Fair Trade said investments are required in cold chain infrastructure to help transform Nigeria’s food system in alignment with the challenges of smallholder farmers.
“If we do not handle post-harvest losses, we cannot stabilize and grow our agriculture,” said Akinsola Akeredolu-Ale, managing director and chief executive, Lagos Commodities & Futures Exchange.
According to him, post-harvest losses have significant nutritional, health, and financial impacts for both consumers and farmers.
Currently, post-harvest losses in Nigeria have been estimated to range between 5 and 20 percent for grains; 20 percent for fish, and as high as between 50 and 60 percent for tubers, fruits, and vegetables.
Speaking also, Alexander Isong, president, OTACCWA, described the 50 percent loss of harvest as a lot of wastage, adding that his organisation is advocating for the reduction of post-harvest by introducing and supporting the use of cold chain which has to be an integral part of farming.
He said post-harvest losses is not just a crop thing, as it affects dairy and pharmaceuticals.
“There’s no country in the world that has a good economy that doesn’t have a good cold chain existing in their ecosystem,” he said.
“Cold chain is a very large industry, but in Nigeria, it’s very nascent because we have not come to terms with the importance of cold chain as it affects agriculture, medical delivery, and the general health delivery of the country,” Isong said.
Similarly, Bernd Vin Muchow-Pohl, the consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany, acknowledged that the food industry and everything that caters to it continues to hold great potential in Nigeria whether in terms of developing domestic markets or export of agricultural products and processing of foods.
But to turn the negative statistics and become a good net exporter, Nigeria will have to move up the value chain, the German diplomat said.
“It will need to show more determination in addressing the perennial problems that continue to plague agricultural exporters and manufacturers in various degrees,” he said.
According to Munchow-Pohl, problems which to stifle growth in all sectors of the economy include insecurity in most parts of the country; crumbling infrastructure, and sketchy power supply.
In addition, he highlighted the need for a more “reliable and regulatory policy framework to safeguard investment, for better protection of intellectual property rights and adherence to international quality norms and standards.”
Also, Paul Marz, managing director, Fairtrade, said that his organisation is supporting Nigeria to produce more locally with the latest standards of international technology of machines coming in and to also replace imports of food products into the country.
“We think Nigeria can be agriculturally self-sufficient but needs the right technology to produce high quality because right now we have lots of post-harvest losses,” he said.
While noting that over half of the harvest is spoilt on the way to the markets, he urged the country to process more of its perishable commodities.
If Nigeria would process these foods on modern machinery, and package it accordingly, then it would be in the position to consume more food that is produced locally and eventually to also export food, he said.