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Nigeria: How to tap into foodstuff export market

Published date:
Monday, 18 July 2011

The demand for African foodstuffs in Europe and America is rising due to increasing number of Africans, particularly Nigerians who sojourn to these countries for the proverbial greener pastures. There are many small foodstuffs exporters in the West African sub region who depend on middlemen to export their produce in small quantities and sell to consumers or retailers running ethnic shops in the US and Europe.

The volume of Nigerian export of foodstuffs to these countries is still on a very small scale considering the estimation of well over 20 million Nigerians who reside outside the country, with the majority, living in the UK and the US. This is a great opportunity to sell to this category of people. The few exporters of African foodstuffs cannot meet with the demand of Nigerians whose population is increasing everyday abroad.

Some of the exportable foodstuffs are: smoked fish, garri, beans flour, melon seed, ogbono, cassava flour, bitter leaf, dried pumpkin leaf, palm wine, butter production, coconut processing, pepper, tomato paste, hibiscus flower, yoghurt, pap, other vegetable leaves, hot chilli pepper, among many others.

Starting on a small scale

Company registration is optional since you are doing it on a small scale, which means you are sending the foodstuffs through an individual. The start-up capital is between N150, 000 to N200, 000, an e-mail address, a mobile phone and an account with a reputable bank here in Nigeria.

However, having a domiciliary account will be better, you don’t need previous experience in the field but you should have a "good head" for organising business.

You can get support from an organisation called Association of Micro-Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AMEN), which will help you register with NAFDAC. You can also make use of their factory site which will enable you operate the business successfully.

Opportunity for small investors

As a small investor you can send this product through NIPOST or by air. NIPOST has ready made cartons that can take up to 30kg, which cost N40, 593. Perishable products are not allowed through the NIPOST because it takes up to five to seven working days before the products get to the UK and US, receptively. But you can send perishable items by air because it takes about eight hours to get there, depending on the country.

Getting buyers

You can get buyers by advertising your product online. You can have a website where you will display your product. Make use of social site like facebook or twitter, you can also register with some trade sites like Alibaba, tradekey and so on. You can advertise your product as a free member. It will also give you a privilege to chat with foodstuff buyers abroad.

Dealing with responses

A lot of response will be coming from some Nigerians and Africans who operate African shops in foreign counties because some of them are looking for foodstuffs distributors. You may need to send free samples to some of them while you make them choose the right packaging pattern for the product you are sending.

Leveraging on friends, relatives abroad

You can send the foodstuffs to friends and relatives in the US and UK; they will help you sell them and pay the money into your account in Nigeria. You don’t need to go through the rigours of cross checking who is genuine or not; they know the terrain and they will help you sell directly to African foodstuffs importers and African food stores abroad.

Nigeria will remain a mono-culture economy since it has failed to tap into the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) launched by the US since year 2000. The concept of AGOA introduced by the Clinton administration was to encourage African countries to increase their exports in non-traditional products to the US, thus adding value to raw material from developing economies.

Nigeria ranks only high in the energy-related products sector. The country has failed woefully in the foodstuffs exportation category, while branded foodstuffs from Ghana are all over the UK and the US.

AGOA is a window of export opportunities that can also serve as a catalyst towards achieving Nigeria’s vision 2020 in terms of foreign earnings, boosting production and capacity utilisation and generating hundreds of thousands of gainful employment through foodstuff exportation.

Foodstuff exportation business can generate employment if the Federal Government can establish cold storage facilities and agricultural trade support infrastructure at designated points.

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