Stories by Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
Organic agriculture has come to be accepted across the world having proven to be environmentally friendly, healthy and sustainable. But in Nigeria, that brand of farming is still lagging behind, as only an insignificant percentage of farmers practice it in the country.
This has been largely due to lack of education, effective extensive service and unfavourable policies. Some African countries like Kenya that started producing organically are benefiting from it both locally and internationally.
The use of inorganic fertilisers, which is injurious to the soil and human health as a result of consumption of foods produced using the fertiliser, is being gradually discouraged across the globe. Developed nations are said to prefer organic foods to the inorganically produced ones for goods and stable health, among other reasons, because organic agriculture is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs.
It is a system that considers potential environmental and social impacts by eliminating the use of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified seeds and breeds, preservatives, additives and irradiation.
However, food exports are crucial to Nigeria’s economy, and increasing participation in organic farming by exporters would be a welcome development and a boost to the already strong and expanding sector as it will generate huge foreign exchange and attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) business into the country.
Experts insist that organic agriculture can increase farm yields by 100 per cent or more and help farmers get higher income for their produce, which they say sell at a premium. In addition, it helps create jobs in rural regions as organic inputs are usually produced locally, and helps to stem the tide of migrants from rural areas.
In the last 20 years, a lucrative international market for organic cocoa, spices, vegetables and coffee has attracted more farmers into organic farming. This is because the demand for such produce in the United States, Europe and Asia far outstrips domestic supply. The major organic produce importing countries are the United States, the United Kingdom, China, India, Germany and the Netherlands. It was revealed that, so far, Germany is Europe’s largest market for organic products, with a sales volume of €5.8 billion and an average growth of 15 per cent yearly.
Organic farming practitioners revealed that supermarkets, food and pharmaceutical companies are channels for organic produce. Others include bakeries, health food shops, specialised organic shops, fast food restaurants and delivery services.
Recently, the Deputy Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Petko Draganov, said expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will have beneficial effects on the continent’s nutritional needs, the environment, farmers’ incomes, markets and employment. He explained that organic agriculture can offer an impressive array of food security, economic, environmental, and health benefits for developing countries, including in Africa.
Speaking with Daily Sun at a forum, the Managing Director of Lead Unique Ventures Limited, Mrs. Bridget Okonoha, said Nigeria is not doing much in the area of exportation, stating that there is need for the Federal Government, stakeholders in the agriculture sector and cooperative societies to invest massively in organic produce export.
According to her, Nigeria will be able to produce more if farmers begin to use the right fertilisers. She further said apart from organic farm produce being healthy, it produces enmass, there is need to produce in large quantities so as to meet the demand of the US market.
She explained: “We should no longer be importing food items when we have enough land to cultivate and grow food and cash crops. Our perishable farm produce should not be lost to poor handling when we have investors who can establish storage facilities. Our farmers should not go broke again when we have market where our farm produce can be sold with immense profit.
“We have designed a forum to set up collation of farmers that will farm certain organic produce for market in the United States. The whole world is doing export but Nigeria is not doing much in terms of export. Our aim is a big movement where we can begin to move agricultural products from Nigeria to the United States under a unified name of Ashanti Produce International, so that we can begin to clear the name of Nigeria in terms of agriculture and beat every other country. What we need is to get farmers and investors to be part of the movement so that we can all benefit from it.
“Nigeria would have been able to access about $4 billion from the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) project, but we couldn’t because we didn’t understand how to move our produce. Once the export becomes a success, we would be able to access the fund that has been in place already.”
On his part, immediate past Chairman of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Prince Wale Oyokoya, said organic fertilisers’ produce are always the best in the world because they are natural, have no adverse health implications and prevent diseases from farm produce.
Speaking on the economic benefit of organic farm produce, he said it would enable Nigeria to compete in the international markets in terms of exporting some farm produce because advanced countries, especially the western world, have channeled into organic produce, especially in the area of fruit and vegetable farming.
He said organic agriculture would increase Nigeria’s export zone and also reduce the import bill, which is currently placed at about $20 billion.
He said: “Some of Nigeria’s produce are not accepted in the international market because we have not been able to get them into the standard we really want and that is why organic produce would be able to push us to the world market and showcase what we have in the country. Now that Nigeria’s oil is not accepted in the world and the current President of US, Donald Trump, is trying to seal a deal with Russia, Nigeria has to be careful because by the time Trump strikes the deal with Russia, oil from Nigeria will not be acceptable around the world. There is need to focus on agriculture by engaging more farmers in organic farming.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer, Ashanti Produce International, Michael Griffin, a US national, said there is huge market in the production of organic farm produce, which Nigeria must maximise for export. He said there is huge market in the US for organic produce, adding that the organic produce industry in America is worth about $38.9 billion and Nigeria must utilise all the potential in its agricultural sector to develop the nation’s economy.
He said, “Nigeria is a qualified ACPU (African-Caribbean Produce Union) member. Changing the mindset is the major thing, understanding knowledge and wisdom. With the change in mindset, it is easy to move into the right direction. Then farmers decide in Nigeria to feed the world; the country that feeds the world would never go hungry. The new oil in Nigeria is agriculture. When Nigeria decides to take this serious, no one would deny her.”