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Repositioning Plateau’s Horticulture Industry For Export

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Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) is mapping out plans to   transform the  horticultural product base of Nigeria for exportation.  ACHOR ABIMAJE reports

In its efforts to ensure the exportation of horticulture produces from Nigeria to foreign countries, the north central zonal office of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has organised a capacity building workshop for critical stakeholders to reposition horticulture sub sector in Plateau State.

The executive Director of the NEPC, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo in his address at the occasion, said his agency’s effort in preventing the Nigerian economy over dependence on oil through commitment  to export diversification  prompted the articulation of zero oil plan which is measurable  focus of the council to attain this objective in phases and within a maximum period of 15 years.

He said the purpose of the initiative is to have an economy that does not depend on a single drop of oil revenue to survive, adding that the realisation of this dream is premised on massive production and marketing of pre-qualified and selected products in targeted markets.

He noted that it is a belief that horticulture by it’s production and export potentials belongs to this category of quick win products, that should be targeted for intensive development and promotion.

Awolowo disclosed that Plateau state is renowned for and is in the forefront of the production of horticultural commodities such as cut flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables like cabbage, carrots cucumber,avocado pear, strawberries and so on.

The NEPC boss noted that these exotic crops are widely consumed  in most countries of the world, with increasing demand arising from the diet consciousness among the people.

Quoting ITC data, Awolowo said world export of cut flowers alone in 2018 was

$ 3.6 billion of which Nigeria’s export was zero, stressing that for the same period world export of vegetables stood at a whooping $72.1 billion with Nigeria taking just a miserable $1.5 million.

Awolowo posited that apart from the present high and still growing demand, horticultural produces are high proceeds globally especially in non oil producer countries, saying an in-depth study carried out on product sector by NEPC indicated high concentration of small holder farmers that produce between 15,000 to 25,000 metric tonnes of one, two or more of the horticultural product.

He added that the study also revealed that farmers suffer a lot of deficiencies in the area of production, storage, handling and packaging which makes their output unfit for the export market.

He lamemted that the varieties cultivated are not the high yielding disease resistance ones, stressing the need to further enhance their capacity to produce high quality crops that will attract premium prices in the international market with a view to boosting their export in line with the focus of zero tolerance oil plan.

Awolowo further said NEPC organised the  capacity building workshop for both the farmers and other stakeholders during which experts in the product sector would train the target participants on the above issues.

He expressed delight that they have relevant stakeholders to run with the zeal required  to transform the horticultural product base of Nigeria for eventual export gains.

The NEPC boss expressed optimism that the lectures from the highly valued and experienced resource persons would definitely set the ball rolling and create a new  game changer needed for the sub sector.

According to him, at NEPC it is their belief that together  they can succeed in achieving for the nation what they want to achieve through the forum, not only in the diversification of economic base, but moving the country from a mono product foriegn exchange earner to a multi product foriegn  exchange earner.

Nanakaan Saave, a Deputy Director at NEPC  in his paper titled “Export Market potentials of Nigerian horticultural products’, he said the diversification of the Nigerian economy away from oil (mono-economy) is much more fashionable and urgent now that the price of fossil fuel is constantly crashing at the international market place.

According to him, diversification to include export of horticultural products will increase Nigeria’s share of world export proceeds, hence mitigating the fiscal stress from the dwindling global oil price.

He further disclosed  that there is a steady and significant increase in global horticultural products export, stressing export from Nigeria of horticultural products is insignificant inspite of availability of both human and the agro-ecology that favours the production of wide array of the product.

Saave  added that concerted efforts of practitioners in the industry towards the development for export of horticultural products will undoubtedly increase Nigeria’s share of the global pie.

Dr. Emmanuel Ortese of the  Horticultural and Landscaping Technology, Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev  in a paper titled “ Best Horticultural practices in the production, harvesting , storage , packaging of cupflowers for export” said that good agricultural practices (GAPs) are specific  methods which, when applied to agriculture, create food for consumers or further processing that is safe and wholesome, saying most farmers attribute the success of each crop yield to their hard work or divine blessings.

He said GAP is for improving food quality and food safety and enhancing food security through improved production techniques.

He stressed that there was the need to attain the goals of sustainable agriculture, protecting environmental and natural resources, improving food safety and security and enhancing worker’s welfare.

According to him, post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables are more serious in developing countries  than in well-developed countries.

Speaking in the same vein, the north Central zonal coordinator of NEPC, Mr. Christian Elekwa said the workshop was necessitated by the huge and untapped horticultural endowment of Plateau state and the need to aggressively develop and promote the crops for export especially, harping on global best practices to afford them acceptability in the international market.

He added that the programme therefore was another testimony of the importance NEPC attaches to the development and diversification of the non oil sector of the economy through the coordinated and stratgic enlightenment Programmes.

According to him, the workshop was one of the series of products market development  and study plans being carried by the council to increase awareness level of stakeholders’ knowledge and skills in order to promote and diversify the basket of Nigerian none oil export trade.

The north Central zonal coordinator further said that it has been observed that inspired of the huge potentials of the market, Nigerian exporters are yet to secure a fair share of the market, owing to their inability to meet the requisites standards for exporting to other market, particularly the EU markets.

He said for Nigeria to be a significant player in the traditional horticultural products, marketing in international market, challenges facing the Nigerian exporters among which are produce quality standard storage, handling and packaging issues must be professionally addressed to pave the way for sustainable and profitable and export trade activities on the products.

According to him, it is is in the light of the above that the council deemed it worthwhile to organise the workshop, aimed at positioning the horticultural sub sector in Plateau state for export inview of the importance of the sub sector for obvious economic benefits to the state in particular and the country in general.

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