In 2016 a Punch Newspaper reported that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development put the demand for tomatoes in Nigeria at 2.2million tons and quantity harvested at 1.5million tons. Sadly, only 800,000 tons of the harvest got the market while 700,000 tons were lost to post-harvest bottlenecks.
This is not a lone case as there are similar reports of post-harvest losses of other farm produces especially perishables. In the Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016 – 2020) document submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, confirmed that the country’s current post-harvest loss rates of perishable crops are up to 60 per cent.
In most of the reports on post-harvest lose in Nigeria, the losses have been blamed mostly on inadequate storage and lack of processing facilities in the country. While there have been mentions bad roads in rural areas as another reason, the inadequate transportation system and poor logistics in the country is not getting enough mentions as the major cause of post-harvest losses in the country.
Like in the case of tomato farming, Nigerian farmers don’t produce enough to meet local demand of most if not all crops, so the wastage in the system is not a problem of excess production but that of lack of access to the market. Most of the farms in Nigeria are located in rural areas far away from towns and cities and lack motorable access road on which commodities can be transported to already existing places of collection, storage, or marketing.
The main aim of farmers is to get their produce to the market where they can sell at profit and the aim of buyers of farm produce is to get the produce as fresh as possible at a good price. This means if the farmers can easily access markets in every state in Nigeria, they will be able to sell all their produce with minimal loss due to wastage and also get a good price for their produce, but the lack of good motorable roads, railway and waterways that connect farming settlements to faraway markets and terminals like airports and seaports means they cannot access distant market or foreign markets when nearby markets are saturated. This is what produces the wastage especially for perishable.
The building of more storage and processing facilities in Nigeria is needed to grow the agricultural industry in the country but if farmers are not able to move their produce from point A to B as at when due at a minimal cost, there will continue to records huge post-harvest wastage and losses in the sector.
The Nigerian transport system is not only undeveloped; It is inadequate. The country has few motorable road and railways, a modern inland water transport system is almost don’t exist, and the only functional seaports are among the slowest and most difficult in the world. There is a huge logistic problem in Nigeria as the poor transportation system in the country doesn’t only affects the agricultural sector but all sectors of the economy that has to so with the movement of persons and good in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, not much is being done by the government to solve the logistic problem in the county instead more people are being encouraged to go into farming and more farmers are being encouraged to increase outputs. Recently the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bankers Committee, an umbrella body of managing directors of commercial banks in the country decided to extend N200 billion facilities to farmers for agriculture produce exportation. This is being done without first solving the bottlenecks at the seaport and the traffic congestions at the Nigerian seaports. Until the Nigerian government understand that a country’s agriculture sector cannot develop ahead of its transportation system, only then can they begin to make good agricultural policies in the country.