Getting foreign buyers has emerged as a big challenge to potential exporters in the south-south. This was exposed at a one-day training workshop in Port Harcourt for exporters by the Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC).
Most participants during the interactive session complained about difficulties in getting foreign buyers while others said foreign buyers regard every mail from Nigeria as scam.
One particular enthusiastic but potential exporter, a female, said getting buyers online has remained hard. “Buyers shun us because they think we are scammers. They do not respond to our letters making inquiries. Is there anything NEPC can do?”
Another exporter asked how they can identify profitable products and buyers.
They got some answers from Evelyn Kobo who wondered if the exporters wrote the letters professionally, saying there were professional ways of writing such letters.
“Most times, certification details are needed. Check Global Gap to know what is needed. They certify most farm produce but we have only one centre in Nigeria whereas Ghana has many. You can also join a City Chamber so they can identify your firm for ease of trading with countries.”
To those who wanted to have a list of exportable products, Kobo said the PH office of the NEPC has many sources listed in the office which she said they could come and see. “We encourage value addition for farm produce.”
Some asked if it was not better to make potential exporters come together and engage the foreign buyers through NEPC?
Some asked to know if the domestic Export warehouse (DEW) attracted demurrage during warehousing.
They were asked to send their inquiries but that they could let the buyers know that NEPC knew them.
The exporters were also worried by the incidence of reject issue. “Why can’t government get the type of chemical that is safe and educate the farmers to produce along those standards because exporters are mostly traders, not farmers.”
They were told it was not the government that would do it for exporters. They were told that there are different commodities and different rules.
Some wanted to know if there was a checklist of all needed export products and a platform for interaction. They were told that a whatsapp platform for exporters in the south-south was coming.
An expert, Kayode Oluwafemi, MD/CEO of De-Praimamarc Consulting, admitted that it is not easy to find buyers especially online, saying face-to-face is still better because most buyers want to know the seller and trust him or her.
On need for export, he said local product glut made the US to seek markets outside, thus advent of international trade. He gave reasons why Nigerian products were of higher in prices in the international market: high cost of production at home; bribery, energy costs, environmental factors such as bad roads and high air freight costs in relation to other African countries.
He took the exporters through what he said buyers want: quality, availability (due to product circle), timeliness, knowledge of International Commercial Terms (INCOTERM) used in drafting agreements. He warned that they should understand well before exporting goods. He said the terms change after some time.
He however said those who want to know how to export should know that there is satellite economic system in the US and UK. “There are large settlements of Nigerians in these two countries.”
Benefits of japa:
Oluwafemi showed how japa syndrome (exodus of Nigerians to outside) has created an advantage. “Japa is causing technology transfer, especially in the fast-food business, betting, etc.”
He asked them to be strict with documentation. He also said research is very crucial. “This will show you where the product is banned, where there is strong local production, the tariff in each country.
“Don’t rely on an agent. There are competitors. Mind where there are restrictions such as charcoal. Use family and friends abroad, trade fairs, etc.”
On barriers to export, the expert mentioned multiple taxation. “High rate of foreign exchange is sign that there is too much importation. Citizens must learn to consume local products.
We get many inquiries about sourcing foreign buyers – Regional Coordinator
The regional coordinator, South-South of NEPC, Ganiyu Ahmed Gbolagade, in a welcome speech, admitted that they Council was bombarded with inquiries.
This is in translating the concept of Export4survival campaign recently launched by the Council geared towards diversification of the nation’s economy through promotion of non-oil export.
He said NEPC received inquiries on market access from registered and potential exporters, thus, the decision to mount this workshop. “This is because, product development is synonymous with market access. If government should encourage commercial production and export product development, it must help in market access to international market.
“The NEPC in trying to boost sales beyond the borders, created Export Trade Houses in Egypt, Kenya, Togo, and recently in China. These are houses are sited in central locations where Made-In-Nigeria goods can be easily shipped to, displayed, and distributed to other parts of the world.”
The idea, said, is to enhance the visibility of products of Nigerian origin outside the country’s shores, reduce the cost of logistics on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and increase Nigeria’s market share in international trade.
“It is therefore, imperative to unveil to our esteemed registered and potential exporters viable non-oil export and developing the nation’s economy. The resource persons were procured in line with this strategic objective including the CEO/Managing Consultant Praimmare Consulting Limited, Kayode Oluwafemi who will speak on ‘Effective Means of Sourcing Foreign Buyers’. He is a certified trainer by the International Trade Centre (ITC) with over 15 years of experience in SME Growth Consulting with much trainings and experience in international trade.”
He urged them to pay good attention and pick up every information so that at the end, we can be sure they could be able to cope with international trade.
DEW has many benefits:
Lucky Komene of MV Elehwel Universal & Energy Solutions Limited spoke on Domestic Export Warehouse (DEW) system, saying importing without exporting is dangerous.
He said it is as bad as consuming without excreting it. “This is why Nigeria has problems; excessive import plus heavy consumption of imported goods. This trend must be upturned.
“Non-oil export can transform Nigeria’s economy. This is because natural resources abound in the country, everywhere, and these can be exported. “Look around you, even in your village, there is something abundant there and it is needed somewhere in the world.”
Mud is exportable:
He said mud is an export product, adding that a businessman is working hard to process it to export standard and would soon resume exporting, guided by MV Elehwel Universal Limited, because they know countries that need it.
“Everyone must strive to earn foreign exchange for Nigeria for things to improve. Onne port earned N242bn in 2022 from export activities. In the first quarter of 2023, it has already earned N54bn. Things are happening. Non-export has much to contribute to the economy.
“NEPC set up a N50Bn fund to support export under EEFP scheme. NEPC approved nine pilot DEWs in 2021, two of these are in the Niger Delta area (Onne in Rivers State and Benin).”
He showed how DEW works: “It starts with the facility receiving your products for export. Here, comprehensive documentation is done. Then identification processes are done. Storage is next in the best safeguarding way ready to be released on request. Next is loading for export, then inspection and sealing by Customs and other agencies. It leaves the port to the ship.
“DEW is run as a public private partnership (PPP) project with EEFP as funders but NEPC is in-charge. We have EEFP, Customs, NDLEA, Quarantine agency, PIA (Pre-shipment Inspection Agency).”
On rejection, he said packaging is the cause, and reminded them of the beans issue. “It was because of level of chemical to preserve it. Our handlers are some of the best in the world. They will help you if its not well packaged to international standards.”
In his goodwill message, the president of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), the Eze, Mike Elechi, commended NEPC for being PHCCIMA’s key partners and for their continuous support to exporters in the State.
He informed exporters of the initiative of the Rivers State government in collaboration with the Chamber to register genuine MSMEs and SMEs to produce a concrete database of businesses in the State, and intimated them that it will lead to expansion of businesses and growth of entrepreneurial economy in the State.
He said the State Government would use the database to make favorable business decisions and policies in the State. The president, who was represented by the Director-General of PHCCIMA, Erasmus Chukunda, urged the exporters to make use of the e-Certificate of Origin issued by the Chamber, the only statutory body vested with the operation.
In his vote of thanks, a onetime commissioner of trade and industry in
The state, Andrew J. Egbelu, said NEPC has been consistent in grooming exporters in the south-south, and pleaded with all stakeholders in the export value chain and the trainers not to be tired because it may take time for an export culture to take roots.