Nigerian farmers are having difficulty selling vegetables to the high end market, as foreign-owned supermarkets such as Shoprite, import green pepper, carrots and tomatoes from their countries of origin, ignoring the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) which aims to generate employment and grow wealth for farmers.
Industry watchers say this is a hindrance to the ATA of the government which is being passionately driven by the minister for agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina. Currently, South African retailers, such as Shoprite and Spar lead the grocery business in the country which also include Park and Shop and Goodies with their malls sprouting fast across the country.
Ironically, much of the imported consumables are in-organically grown, with the potential for medically challenging illnesses such as obesity and cancer, which are quite rampant in countries that are largely dependent on ‘chemical food.’
Dare Ogunbanjo, an exotic and local vegetables producer said his firm approached a major South African-owned supermarket, to supply vegetables and their response was cold.
“They prefer to bring vegetables from outside the country. It is cheaper because the enabling environment of these countries is better than that of Nigeria. And it is because they want to make mega profit,” Ogunbanjo told BusinessDay.
Ogunbanjo debunked claims by the said supermarkets, that their refusal was because Nigerian farmers failed to package to international standard. He said, though most Nigerian farmers did not package to international standard, some did, and their produce are still rejected. These vegetables are imported in their original packages but these packages are removed and discarded before being displayed on the shelves.
But Ogunbanjo warned against using increased duties to curb vegetables import. He said, “These items will still come in without the appropriate duties being paid to the government purse, as much lesser sums could be used to bribe corrupt customs officials.
What we need is regulations that would ensure these supermarkets sell organically grown vegetables, to protect the health of the citizenry. If they are forced to sell organic foods, then buying in Nigeria would be cheaper for them. ”