Nigeria: Wast­ing fruits at home, im­port­ing juice from abroad

Daily Trust - - AGRICULTURE - By Vin­cent A. Yusuf

All over Nigeria, from the semi arid desert of the far North through the Guinea sa­van­nah of the north cen­tral to the thick man­grove forests of the south, the coun­try is blessed with abun­dant va­ri­eties of fruits grown by farm­ers or nat­u­rally spread by an­i­mals or birds.

Wa­ter melon, pineap­ple, paw­paw, cit­rus, banana, guava, mangoes, cashew are the com­mon fruits one sees every­where on the ma­jor high­ways across the coun­try. Each re­gion of the coun­try pro­duces at least three of these sea­sonal fruits in commercial quan­tity.

How­ever, less than one per­cent of the to­tal fruits pro­duced in the coun­try are pro­cessed or ex­ported. The rest are ei­ther eaten fresh or just rot away! The im­pli­ca­tion is that farm­ers reap less from their many years of labour, while the econ­omy loses mil­lions of dol­lars that could have been ac­crued from the ex­port of these fruits.

All over the world, na­tions that do not have oil are tak­ing the huge ad­van­tages pre­sented by the agri­cul­tural sec­tor to ex­tract bil­lions of dol­lars and boost their econ­omy. Some of these na­tions to­day are do­ing bet­ter than Nigeria.

South Africa, Kenya and Ghana are some of the coun­tries in the con­ti­nent that have taken ad­van­tage of sparkling op­por­tu­ni­ties in all sub­sec­tors of agri­cul­ture.

For in­stance, sta­tis­tics from the South African Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Mar­ket Coun­cil, an or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­mot­ing ac­cess for South African agri­cul­ture, shows that the coun­try en­riches it­self with bil­lions of dol­lars in ex­ports of the coun­try’s fruits.

In 2012, South Africa was the largest world ex­porter of cit­rus with a to­tal of 1 mil­lion tonnes ex­ported, which ac­counted for 27% of global or­ange ex­port. The coun­try is the 4th largest ex­porter of lemon and limes with ex­port share of 11%. It is also the ma­jor ex­porter of grape­fruit hav­ing 25% share of the world ex­port in 2011/2012 sea­son.

South Africa ex­ported a to­tal of 102 mil­lion car­tons amount­ing to 15 kilo­grammes of or­anges. 17.1 mil­lion met­ric tonnes of grape pro­duced in 2013 while 55 mil­lion car­tons amount­ing to 4.5 kilo­grams ex­ported.

Most of the fruits pro­duced in South Africa are ex­ported mak­ing the farm­ers richer and the coun­try’s econ­omy vi­able. Only 9% of the cit­rus pro­duced is con­sumed lo­cally. 27% are pro­cessed while 64% are ex­ported.

Grapes, ap­ples, which are con­sumed in Nigeria, are mostly be­ing im­ported ino the coun­try from South Africa, ac­cord­ing to Daily Trust’s find­ings.

Nigeria with its vast arable land has the po­ten­tials to dom­i­nate the ex­ports of fruits mar­ket in Africa but in­stead, it is a net im­porter.

Benue State pro­duces the high­est quan­ti­ties of or­anges in the coun­try. The pro­duc­tion is all year round. There is no time one will not see or­anges com­ing out of Benue. But the ques­tions are: are the farm­ers richer now? What per­cent­age of the or­anges is ex­ported? What per­cent­age is pro­cessed? Why is it that most of the or­anges har­vested go as waste?

Grace Fran­cis is an or­ange trader at Zuba Mar­ket in Abuja. She brings in 70 bags of 100 kilo­grammes to the mar­ket al­most ev­ery week from the state. She is just one of the nu­mer­ous sup­pli­ers of or­anges to Abuja. She said: “They all come from Benue State. Now, one needs to be care­ful with the quan­ti­ties he or she buys be­cause or­anges are just every­where. This is the sea­son.

She lamented that most of the or­anges are wast­ing away be­cause the mar­ket was sat­u­rated and there are no in­dus­tries that can buy the sur­plus fruits.

Alexan­der Aon­dowase, an­other or­ange farmer in Gboko, Benue State, shared with the re­porter the agony of be­ing forced to sale his or­anges at cheaper prices be­cause of glut. He said, “If we have pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties or in­dus­tries that buy these fruits from us at good prices, we will not be forced to sell at this cheap price of N100 per bas­ket,” he said.

While or­anges are wast­ing away, mil­lions of or­ange juices are be­ing im­ported into the coun­try ev­ery year. In fact, it is con­sid­ered a pres­tige to serve such im­ported fruit juice in cer­e­monies. This juice is com­ing from South Africa, Italy, Turkey, USA and other coun­tries, that Nigeria is more agri­cul­tur­ally en­dowed than them.

From Borno, Yobe, Kano, Sokoto, Ji­gawa and Bauchi, Zam­fara in the north, wa­ter melon is pro­duced in commercial quan­ti­ties. At least, 15 trail­ers load of the prod­uct come to Zuba mar­ket al­most on daily ba­sis. Mo­hammed Yusuf, the Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral of the Zuba mar­ket fruit seller as­so­ci­a­tion con­firmed to the re­porter.

He said while many tonnes of wa­ter­melon waste away across the coun­try, shops are filled with im­ported wa­ter melon juice and other fruits juice.

Why are Nige­rian farm­ers find­ing it dif­fi­cult to ex­port their fresh fruits like Kenya, South Africa and Ghana? Daily Trust put the ques­tion to Michael Kanu, Deputy Di­rec­tor in charge of Hor­ti­cul­ture value chain of the Federal Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture.

He said Nigeria can­not ex­port be­cause the fruits do not meet the in­ter­na­tional safety stan­dard re­quire for ex­port.

He stressed that the coun­try lacks the stan­dard in­fra­struc­ture re­quired for the pro­duc­tion of fruits and veg­eta­bles that will meet the in­ter­na­tional re­quire­ment for food safety, adding that some­thing is be­ing done to that ef­fect.

“A lot has been done to ad­dress the prob­lem of stan­dard in­fra­struc­ture and safety leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress the is­sues so that im­por­ta­tions will stop. We are work­ing with Stan­dard Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Nigeria to ad­dress the is­sue of stan­dard. The Sta­ble Crops Pro­cess­ing Zones will also ad­dress most of these chal­lenges.”

On why there is so much wastage, es­pe­cially in sea­son of glut, Kanu said farm­ers are part of the prob­lems. He said farm­ers be­lieve that they make more money if they sell their prod­ucts to in­di­vid­ual con­sumers in­stead of sell­ing to com­pa­nies who buy in bulk at re­duced price per unit.

Un­til the Federal Govern­ment pro­posed 14 Sta­ble Crops Pro­cess­ing Zones across the coun­try are put in place and the is­sues of stan­dard in­fra­struc­tures for pro­duc­tion, stor­age and pro­cess­ing are ad­dressed holis­ti­cally, the coun­try may con­tinue to be con­sumer of im­ported fruits juice, while our fruits lay waste.

Or­anges at Zuba mar­ket

Pineap­ples are some of the com­mon fruits found across the coun­try

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