Nigeria’s agriculture exports – especially grains – remain a viable way to boost foreign exchange revenue, while at the same time empowering local value chains and creating wealth. The grains could also help the country achieve more food security. This was the summation of ‘Commodity Grains: Boosting Export, Feeding the Population’, a recent seminar by Buhler Nigeria that highlighted export potentials and local opportunities from certain grains.
Nigeria’s agricultural exports surged to a five-year high in 2022 amid local production push, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) as reported by BusinessDay showed. A total of N598.2 billion worth of agricultural produce were exported in 2022, accounting for 18.5 percent increase when compared to 2021.
Opportunities abound and continue to grow even as low-value addition, a perennially reported theme, keeps potential earnings low.
“Looking at the market itself, how can you as a businessman benefit from the export market?” asked Ekalavya Kumar, a process technologist at Buhler. He further explained that there has to be meeting points where the need to generate revenue from exports, boost GDP and be able to feed the country, will occur in perfect synergy. Just as export is important, if the nation’s consumption is not met, the job remains undone. A multipronged approach becomes essential to boost productivity, enhance value and invariably, what is earned from exports of final products, without sacrificing local food security.
With over $440m export potential to various countries up for grabs, according to the ITC export mapping, cocoa, sesame and cashew alone could offer farmers and exporters a lucrative source of revenue.
“We are moving from reliance on oil to agriculture exports but it can be achieved only with the support and commitment of every stakeholder,” he said.
Last year, cocoa beans, sesame seeds, and cashew nuts topped the list of exported agricultural commodities, earning Nigeria N442.95 billion according to BusinessDay analysis. Cocoa alone stood at N232.65 billion, accounting for 38.89 percent of total agricultural exports. Sesame seeds export was valued at N139.85 billion, accounting for 23.34 percent of total agric exports within the period, while cashew nuts in shells valued at N70.45 billion were exported.
Kumar, in a presentation, emphasised that Sesame remains a viable export crop. While he said “production is good,” it is not as much as the country needs to fully utilise the export potentials and meet local needs.
FAO data in a chart presented showed Sesame production has dropped from its peak in 2012 and is currently less than half of what was produced over 10 years ago. Yet, exports continue to grow while the quantity utilised for food has dipped, likewise, the volume that is processed.
“In Sesame, where the challenge lies is value addition,” he said. “A lot of people are not adding value to sesame before exports.”
Also highlighted was the importance of standards, failing which Nigeria’s agriculture exports would not be competitive in the international market. There are various standards for different commodities, which need to be adhered to for Nigeria’s goods to be acceptable. Achieving these standards often start from cleaning and storage of commodities.
The presentation, which showed that 30 percent of all food produced gets lost from “the field to fork”, also indicated Bühler processing and cleaning machines can reduce grain losses. Benefits of a pre-cleaning process at intake include; improving storability and preserving the quality of the grain; optimised use of storage space; prevents blockage of silo outlets by foreign material.
Others include reduction in wear and damage to machines and piping; reduces the risk of dust explosions; prevention of diseases e.g. formation of toxins and contamination like mycotoxins (Aflatoxin, DON, Ergot).
Lastly, the benefit of a main-cleaning process includes making grains into the expected product quality required for further processing. This automatically makes them more valuable and useful to industry.
The seminar focused on addressing the crucial issue of food security in Nigeria while exploring the potential of the export market. Buhler believes that Nigeria’s local grains offer a key opportunity for growth and development in both these areas.
Manuel Murrenhoff, MD, Buhler Nigeria, who said the company aims for everyone to have access to affordable, nutritious, and great tasting food, also stressed on the possibilities available in Nigeria with the multiplicity and availability of different grains for foods. This, he said, could guarantee food security for a nation like Nigeria, whose population is forecasted to reach 800m by 2050. Through utilisation of the right innovations by a company as Buhler, the possibilities are limitless, he said.
Manuel highlighted that Buhler invests up to 5 percent of its turnover to drive innovation within these solutions, enhancing food security and improving food safety, outcomes he reiterated Buhler is committed to seeing in Nigeria.
Ali Hmayed, head, Buhler grain processing innovation centre, presented the plan for the soon-to-be-completed innovation centre in Kano.
Located at the edge of the Saharan desert, many local grains are traded in Kano. These include products like sorghum, millets, maize, soybeans, beans, groundnuts, and cashew nuts. In addition, various grains have been identified, which remain unexplored such as Tigernuts, Cassia Tora, Grains of Paradise, or Bambara Groundnut.
In the GPIC, the aim, he says, is to work with industry stakeholders to develop and verify solutions through trials and assist them in their investment decisions. The Centre will consist of cleaning, sorting, dehulling, preparation, tempering, and milling sections. The heart of the plant is a high-compression Alpesa grinding system. And further, it will be possible to analyse results in a lab setup.
Kumar, the process technologist, had also said the grain cleaning equipment market is experiencing significant growth as the agricultural industry recognizes the importance of ensuring high-quality and contaminant-free grains. Grain cleaning equipment plays a crucial role in removing impurities, such as stones, debris, dust, and other foreign materials, from harvested grains. This process helps enhance grain quality, prevent spoilage, and maintain food safety standards.
Polycarp Okoeka, area service manager, Buhler, offered insights into various technologies, including air screen cleaners, magnetic separators, gravity separators, and colour sorters, to cater to different grain types and processing requirements. The grain cleaning equipment market, he also said, is witnessing advancements in technology and the integration of automation and digital solutions.
Key trends include the incorporation of sensor-based technologies for real-time monitoring and precise sorting, the development of energy-efficient equipment, and the adoption of smart controls for improved efficiency and ease of operation. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on sustainable practices, such as reducing water and energy consumption in grain cleaning processes. As the agriculture industry continues to prioritise grain quality and safety, the Grain Cleaning Equipment market is expected to expand further. “Buhler is already one step ahead of its competition in meeting this need,” he said.
Read also: Wheat, sugar, fish top agric imports in 2022
During the session, Iyore Amadasun, sales & channel business manager at Buhler, highlighted the need to strike a balance between commodities for exports and its conversion to feeding the nation.
He said, even though Nigeria’s Agriculture has contributed above 25 percent to GDP topline and still forecasted to grow in the coming years, there is still a deficit to the food processed locally and even so to the food supply per capita. For the largest market in Africa with a vastly growing population, more than ever, it is important to reach a balance for export commodities like Sesame seeds, cocoa beans, cashew nuts, without compromising the nation’s food security.
With over $440m export potential to various countries up for grabs, according to the ITC export mapping, Cocoa, sesame and cashew alone could offer farmers and exporters a lucrative source of revenue. While the export market demand is largely driven by an increasing focus on grain quality and safety, growing consumer demand for clean, healthy and affordable food products is also an important factor in what grains are eventually purchased from those who meet set standards.