An end-to-end food supply chain describes all the production stages through which food items pass before reaching the final consumer. In Nigeria, a coagulation of latent factors all contribute to hindering the effective growth of the food supply chain. There is no doubt that poor farming conditions and the absence of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) all contribute in no small measure to the agricultural problems plaguing Nigeria.
While the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under the governorship of Godwin Emefiele, disbursed a total of N864 billion to more than 4.1 million farmers across Nigeria under the Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AgSMEIS), including the further disbursement of another N43.19 billion under the Anchor Borrowers Programme to support the cultivation of over 250,000 hectares of maize, sorghum, soya beans, and rice during the dry season in October 2021, it would seem that the challenges related to seamless food supply chain in Nigeria continue to persist in a myriad of ways.
However, to properly contextualize the complexity of the Nigerian food sector, we must first conduct a proper analysis of the general challenges related to food supply chains the world over.
General global challenges in food supply chain management
1. Multifarious regulations in the food industry
There has been a continuous evolution in the food supply chain over the years. The result of this is that regulation has inevitably become more stringent in the agricultural production sector and the food sector, especially in the United States and other developed countries. The difficulties of hiring new labour and importing goods has become more and more challenging over time due to the increasing number of regulations. Eventually, this is slowing down the food supply chain as a result of delays in delivering products and increased prices for consumers.
2. Inadequate communication within the supply chain
Managing supplier relationships in a poor manner gradually delays the delivery of goods and increases spoilage as well as contamination of goods. The food system and the supply chain are broken up into fragments. There are many different ways that business uses logistics, such as the use of third-party logistics companies, information sharing policies, and local laws. Due to these reasons, it is necessary for the players in the food supply chain to be able to communicate effectively with one another.
Improving communication within your supply is achievable with the advent of numerous supply chain systems available in the market today. By leveraging technology your supply chain can become a cohesive unit if you streamline your communications with a cloud-based network and adopt an electronic data interchange system.
3. The demand for food is increasing
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand at grocery stores has continued to rise. This increase in demand is good for business profits, but it also poses a number of challenges and concerns. In order to continue to manage restocks required by grocery stores, many supply chain participants are looking to get their materials quicker. Meanwhile, grocery stores are trying to keep their employees happy by offering bonuses and other rewards.
Enhancing Nigeria’s farm-to-table food process
Now, having briefly surveyed the common challenges of the food sector, let’s come home to the ways by which food products in Nigeria can seamlessly get to the final consumer through a more unified food supply chain process:
1. Improving public-private financing in the food sector
The African Development Bank (AfD) confirms that while Africa is home to more than 400 million hectares of agriculturally cultivable savannah land, the continent still spends $35 billion yearly on importing food. Indeed, it adds that agriculture funding in Africa is less than four percent of private-sector financing. However, the nascent agricultural sector contributes up to 20 percent to the economy of the African continent.
By reducing the finance gap, Nigeria’s food supply chain could be scaled up rapidly. Nigeria is a prominent player in the 22 million metric tons of maize, two million metric tons of soybean, one million metric tons of broiler meat, and 10 million metric tons of milk products imported into the African continent yearly.
However, by leveraging mezzanine financing through credit provided by public-private partnerships, Nigerian farmers can access new technologies and build out the cold chain, distribution, and export infrastructure necessary to smoothen out Nigeria’s food supply chain process.
2. Educating farmers about the harsh effects of harmful carcinogens
A good majority of Nigerian farmers still depend on crude methods of farming. This is because they still need to be exposed to modern techniques in agriculture and other Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). There is no gain in saying that many Nigerian farmers still depend on harmful and poisonous substances to preserve their produce.
To this end, relevant regulatory institutions like The Nigerian Administration for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and other agencies must function to ensure that there are standards for the production and exports of food and agricultural products and ensure compliance with set standards.
It has been noted that agricultural produce from Nigeria is mostly contaminated with aflatoxins, poisonous chemicals produced by certain mold fungi. Aflatoxins cause diseases such as cancer and hepatitis, the suppression of human immunity, low productivity, and high mortality rates in livestock and poultry.
Increasing awareness amongst Nigerian farmers on the latent dangers of poisonous carcinogens and mutagens like aflatoxin can reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination during pre-harvest and food handling, storage, processing, and transportation.
In spite of the mountainous path to an improved and globally standardized food supply chain for Nigeria, it is manageable. Nigerian farming-to-table can be simplified as ABC if we pay attention to the importance of public-private funding methods and reduce crude agricultural practices such as aflatoxin that cause carcinogenic toxins. We have to produce enough for our consumption, and these would help a great deal.