Faith Awa Maji, Lafia
National Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has stressed the need for farmers to embark on organic agriculture for efficient food sufficiency in Nigeria.
As part of the organization’s core mandates to make the world a market place for Nigeria’s non-oil product to thrives, to spearhead diversification of Nigeria economy by expanding and increasing non-oil export for sustainable and inclusive economy growth, it has engage farmers today, Thursday at a one-day training on the National Programme on Organic Food Export and Certification held at Kur-Su hotel, Akwanga Local Government Area of Nasarawa State
The programme drew 187 participants from 9 Local Government Areas of the state aimed at how farmers in the state will embark on organic agriculture in order to sustain the health of the soil, ecosystems, biodiversity and people respectively.
In a keynote address at the event, the Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Barr, Olusegun Awolowo said organic farming entails traditional knowledge, innovation, modern science, technologies and practices which will benefit the shared environment.
Barr. Awolowo said that organic foods are produced and processed in a certified farmland or facilities with the overall health benefit to include; improvements of immune system, avoidance of food contaminants, reduction in the chances of developing food-borne diseases and general well-being.
“The value of organic food demand has risen significantly due to global awareness on the essence of food safety concern and focus on organically produced crops.
“Statistically, the global demand for organic foods rose from $15.2 billion in 1999 to $97billion in 2017”.
He noted that, recently, the action plan under the World Food Summit identified the importance of organic input technologies, farming techniques and other sustained methods as organic farming.
“Organic food was first introduced on a large-scale in the early 1990s. It took over 15 years for global organic product sales to reach USD 50 billion in 2008. Ten years (2018) later, they surpassed the USD 100 billion mark”.
The Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council stressed that with COVID-19 changing the way people of the world shop and eat, the next leap will be to USD 150 billion could be within the next 5 years saying many Nigerian agro products such as ginger, hibiscus, moringa, tiger nut, turmeric, soya beans, peanut and sesame seed among others hence, it is an opportunity to develop Nigeria’s organic food sector.
Representative of the National President of the Association of United Farm Product, Traders and Livestock Dealers of Nigeria, Mr V. David Ayeti who is the National Secretary of the Association said being the farmers’ association, it has discovered that most of the farm produce farmers in Nigeria produced are not of exportable quality hence the need for aggressive awareness with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) assisting them with resources.
“Basically, the programme was organized in partnership with us, we are a farmers’ association; and we discover that most of the products that are produced by our farmers now are not of exportable quality. We therefore went into training. We started on our own, we organized organic training for our farmers across the country. We discovered that the resources were not enough and we decided to apply to NNPC to enhance relationship”.
Mr David also said Nasarawa State is not left out hence the need for the training aimed at creating awareness on the farmers to go organic for sustainable economy and exportable purposes.
Earlier, in his welcoming speech, the Trade Advisor/Head, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, (NEPC), Makurdi Export Assistance Office, Mr. Anani Ben Egon said the programme is designed with the primary objective of helping the smallholder farmers, producers and exporters to improve on their farming practices to achieve organic certification to global recognized food safety schemes by complying with organic farming practices and standard.
Mr. Anani Ben noted that, the event was as a result of a joint request from the Association of United Farm Products Traders and Livestock Dealers of Nigeria, National Sesame Seed Association of Nigeria and Soya Beans Association of Nigeria, Benue State chapters to the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, (NEPC), Makurdi Export Assistance Office for support to address some aspects of the challenges facing Nigeria export of agricultural produce in Benue and Nasarawa states to includes as thus;
“The main request was for an intervention to build the capacity of farmers in Benue and Nasarawa states on organic farming practices and certification”.
He said the two states are leading producers of Nigeria major agro export commodities, sesame seed, shea butter, yam also in the producing cluster for fresh produces such as fruit and vegetables.
“In Nigeria, awareness about organic farming is still very poor hence the need to create awareness and government to put in a policy framework for certification of organic farms”, Ben added.
The Trade Advisor/Head, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, (NEPC) Makurdi Export Assistance Office, Mr. Anani Ben Egon expressed sadness on how farmers find themselves in an economy where there is so much harvest from the farm yet processing and market demand is lacking, added that there is need for improve farmers access to domestic and international markets through intervention such as farm assurance and organic certification.
According to him, “there is going to be renewed optimism and expansion farms leading to reduction of poverty and improvement in smallholder’s family choice”.
He assured farmers at the event for continues collaboration with stakeholders to improve on the non-oil export performance.
Some participants appreciated the organizers of the programme and promised to improve on the knowledge gain for sufficient food security in Nasarawa state and the country in general.
Organic agriculture is also a system of production which does not use synthetic fertilizers, drugs, pesticides, herbicides, growth regulators, antibiotics, hormone stimulant, livestock feed additives to grow crops and raise animals.