• Saturday, December 09, 2023
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How to make Nigerian airports ready for export surge

Aviation is not for investors that need quick returns – Babalakin

As Nigeria looks to boost exports, experts have said if facilities across the airports are insufficient to cater for large volumes of cargos.

Airports that have been designated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for passenger and cargo operations include Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Enugu, Makurdi, Minna Jos, Ilorin, Yola and Kebbi Airports.

Avia-cargo is a big business that combines speed and efficiency in delivery and airports are key facilitators of the cargo exports from one country to another.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air cargo transports over $6 trillion worth of goods annually, accounting for approximately 35 percent of world trade by value.

In the first half of 2021, a total of 16.7 metric tons of cargo was exported through airports across the world. And in the same period in 2022, a total of 17.7 was exported, leading to a 6.2 percent increase from the 2021 export figure.

But, in same period in 2023, a total of about 12.9 metric tons was airlifted leading to a further drop by 29.5 percent

IATA in its data for global air cargo markets, released in July 2022, showed cargo as having ‘taken a step back compared to the extra-ordinary performance of 2020-2021’.

The IATA report blamed the poor performance due to volatility resulting from supply chain constraints and evolving economic conditions.

In a bid to mitigate this decline, Kabir Yusuf Mohammed, managing director FAAN said that FAAN in December 2022, assembled the best brains from various aviation cargo private and institutional stakeholders and made them a Avia-Cargo Committee to chart an implementable way forward for Nigeria to take the rightful number one position in Avia-Cargo exports in Africa within the next few years.

Speaking during the 3rd Chinet Aviacargo Conference at Marriott Hotel in Lagos, Mohammed said the avia-cargo committee was further charged to find solutions to bridging the turn-around time in cargo facilitation, financing-gaps in building and maintaining modern cargo infrastructure and facilities and lack of interest by local airlines in domestic cargo operations.

He also explained that the avia-cargo committee also had the responsibility of addressing lack of adequate insurance coverage in the cargo facilitation, lack of adequate standardization and certification of cargo items, particularly farm produce, etc and substandard packaging, processing and traceability challenges.

He mentioned that recently, in company of the Avia-cargo committee members, FAAN did a ground-breaking ceremony for the first Aviation Cargo Village in Nigeria

In this Avia-cargo village, he said the challenges of produce processing, packaging, certification, laboratory services, data gathering for traceability of products and produces will be tackled and surmounted.

This Aviation Cargo Village, according to him, is strategically located opposite the Cargo terminal along Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Expressway, and sits on 27,357.137 square metres.

The FAAN MD said the development will be driven through a public private partnership (PPP) model. This feat will be replicated in other International Airports and Cargo Airports

“I believe that when our Aviation Cargo Village is fully established, we will be able to mitigate the challenges in the supply chain.

Read also: Plateau State, ValueJet sign MoU to sustain flight services to Jos

“All hands must be on deck to fast track the Aviation Cargo Village. FAAN needs the partnership of the private sector to really provide the necessary infrastructure that will make these Airports truly cargo facilitating airports,” the FAAN MD said.

He assured that the Directorate of Commercial and Business Development is ever-ready to facilitate this symbiotic relationship

“We believe that with proper partnership, we can leverage the land mass available in our airports, and establish world-class cargo facilities to further enhance cargo facilitations.

“Our fresh organic produce like cashew, avocado, exotic flowers, yams, etc must be well packaged, processed and certified to meet the destination standards. We have the capacity.

“I believe the synergy between FAAN and Avia-cargo Committee will quicken the change we desire to see in Cargo facilitation in Nigeria. We must export more than we import. And until this is achieved, our work is half done,” Mohammed said.

Also speaking during the CHINET conference, Moshood Adebayo Shittu, Coordinator, Lagos State Office II, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, (SON) said that compliance to the requirements of relevant Standards and adherence to the recommendations stipulated in the codes of practice will ensure the production of quality agricultural products.

Shittu said the standards specify the quality, packaging and labelling requirements and methods of sampling and testing of these commodities.

He said the limits for Metallic Contaminants as well as the Maximum Residues Limits for Pesticides are prescribed in this standard.

He noted that the code provides guidelines for the cultivation, site management, soil requirements, planting, application of agro chemical – fertilizers, pesticide, storage and transportation as well as traceability and record keeping.

“With the implementation of these standards and codes of practice, efficiency, quality and safety are all being built into the Agricultural value chain, starting from the farm (pre harvesting to harvesting, to processing, packaging labelling, storage and transportation) to table,” he added.

Christophe Penninck, the CEO for Asaba Airport Company in his presentation at the CHINET conference said Asaba airport is also positioning itself for the surge of cargo exports through Asaba airport.

Part of its strengths and opportunities Asaba airport is leveraging to make this happen is that it is run by private; high commercial drive.

Located in the city airport – Asaba/Onitsha/Nnewi, Penninck said there is available land, security and electricity to help boost cargo exports.

Beyond these, he said the airport has strong local team, collaborates with agencies and has experienced and motivated staff to drive cargo exports.

For the future, Penninck said the airport would deploy CAT I runway, full solar navigational aids, commence international and regional flights, will have 24hrs operations, will have developed non-aeronautical part – Airport City, and will be true gateway to South-South and South-East region.