Demand for staple foods such as yams, palm oil, vegetables, garri (cassava flour), dried fish, local food seasonings (iru/ogiri), among other items, in Europe, America and other parts of the world has seen exports by air rise 53 percent in the last 10 months.
Before now, Nigerians in the diaspora craving for local food get these items from family and friends who went visiting, but in the last few months, the volume of these foods being exported through air cargo handling companies has risen exponentially.
Basil Agboarumi, managing director/CEO, Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) plc, informs BusinessDay that Nigerians now export a lot of things ranging from spare parts to finished products such as art works and women hair attachments and agro-allied products such as vegetables, snails, yam and palm oil, among others.
Agboarumi says recently Nigerians make effort to export products, especially agro-allied products as Nigerians in the diaspora are seeking our local foods.
“For us as a company, we had to do a lot of investments in our sector to facilitate exports. We are buying facilities to facilitate exports and almost all airlines take export products from our warehouse. We have invested in cold rooms, freezers and in training of our staff,” he states.
BusinessDay’s checks show that the increase in export is also driven by the desire to earn dollars at a time when the exchange rate of naira to a dollar is extremely high.
“Once dollar rises, most people begin to look for ways to earn it, which is why a lot of countries devalue. China keeps their currency low so that they can do more exports. Once the dollar started rising, people started getting interested in exporting so they could earn foreign currency,” Ikechi Uko, travel and cargo expert, says.
Uko explains that every businessman wants to do something to earn foreign currency, adding that there is a greater desire by government, businesses and private individuals to export more hoping that it will earn them more money.
He says there has also been a lot of interest by government, individuals and organisations such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to promote exports.
BusinessDay visited two air cargo handling companies, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO Aviance), and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO), which handle almost 95 percent of all export and import cargo going through Nigerian airports.
Findings show that volumes of cargo exported by both firms increased by 53 percent – from 7,304,227.71kg in (January – October) 2020 to 12,212,007.30kg in (January – October) 2021. Also, cargo imports increased by 43 percent from, 77,524,098.63kg in 2020 to 110,768,933.26kg in 2021.
Data obtained from SAHCO show that air cargo exports increased by 41 percent to 11,834,642kg in 2021 from 8,410,883kg in 2020. On the other hand, imports also increased marginally by 40 percent in 2021 from 65,759,923.50kg to 46,907,346.12kg in 2020.
Data gathered from NAHCO Aviance show that cargo exports also increased by 67 percent to 12,212,007.30kg in 2021 from 7,304,227.71kg in 2020, and imports through the cargo house also increased by 47 percent in 2021 from 46,907,346.12kg in 2020 to 65,759,923.50kg in 2020.
Speaking on the reason for the increase in exports, Seyi Adewale, CEO, Mainstream Cargo Limited, states that there are a lot of manufacturing backlogs as a result of COVID-19 meant for air shipments that are just coming into Nigeria.
Adewale says because of the high cost of air shipment, it is only when it is inevitable that people use air cargo or when there is an emergency.
John Okakpu, managing director/CEO, abx World Limited, says for agro export to contribute significantly to Nigeria’s GDP, there must be capacity building for farmers, regulators and top government officials.
The most basic of agro export requirements is the knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which is completely missing in Nigeria, he states.