Nigeria can overcome food challenges with innovation – Ambassador Plomp

Nigeria can overcome food challenges with innovation – Ambassador Plomp

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By Jimoh Babatunde

The Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, Wouter Plomp, said the country had once faced the challenges of feeding a growing population with limited resources, just like Nigeria is facing now.

But added that with innovation they were able to overcome the challenges.

“The Netherlands, though a small nation, has a long and proud history in agriculture. We’ve faced challenges similar to those Nigeria confronts – feeding a growing population with limited resources. But necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.”

Speaking at the 9th edition of the  Agrofood & Plastprintpack exhibition and convention held in Lagos, Plomp said the Netherlands has demonstrated innovation and productivity in its agricultural landscape, successfully competing in global markets and shaping its economy.

” As partners and through a joint vision the Netherlands and Nigeria recognize that, the agriculture sector is one of the most prominent drivers for economic growth in the country.

“The Netherlands has demonstrated innovation and productivity in its agricultural landscape, successfully competing in global markets and shaping its economy.”

Plomp noted that this understanding serves as a driving force in fostering and enhancing their ties with Nigeria, recognizing the potential of the agricultural sector as the backbone of its economy.

” Although there are numerous reasons for the Netherlands to further strengthen its partnership to boost the  agriculture sector.”

He listed economic growth, improved diets and youth employment possibilities as other reasons.

On Economic growth, he explained that the agricultural sector is important for the Nigerian economy as about 23% of the nation’s GDP is linked to agriculture. Moreover, it accounts for nearly 20% of export earnings for both the local and the export market.

“For example, the horticultural value chain, which is one of the sectors of focus of the Netherlands embassy and Consulate, plays a significant role in the Nigerian economy. Interestingly revenue in the vegetables market amounts to almost 30 billion dollars in 2024 and the sector is expected to grow annually by 13.5%.

“This reveals the noteworthy market opportunities the production of vegetables and fruits.”

On  Improved diets, the ambassador said there is a famous saying that “good nutrition is a responsibility” .

“However ,this responsibility is a luxury for many and in Nigeria data from the Global Nutrition Report indicated that consumption of vegetables is only 46% of the recommended amount for healthy living.

” In sub-Saharan Africa, estimates of fruit and vegetable consumption range from thx 70-312g per person per day, which is far lower than the WHO and FAO recommendation of at least 400g per person per day.

“This reality can be partially attributed to the relatively high prices of vegetables and fruits on the market.”

While noting that  this challenge  can only be solved when there is an increase in efficient production, he added ” It is for this reason that the Netherlands is joining forces with initiatives all across the country, for example HortiNigeria and the Nigeria-Dutch horticulture collaboration, also known as Greenport Nigeria, to maximize horticultural production and improve the affordability of such farm produce.”

While speaking on Youth employment, Plomp quoted Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, as saying that the agriculture sector is the largest employer of Nigeria and that  roughly 70% of the population is working within the sector.

“This means close to 150 million people of Nigeria’s total population of about 213 million is employed by the agriculture sector.

“However, agriculture suffers from entrenched negative perceptions amongst Nigerians’ youth. In the minds of many young Nigerians, farming is poor man’s work that involved backbreaking labor and insufficient financial gain.”

He said the government of the Netherlands believes this perspective should change.

“Therefore, we are partnering with a large group of stakeholders to create viable agribusiness enterprises using innovative, climate-smart technologies, thereby fostering sustainable development and creating an environment where young farmers and entrepreneurs can thrive.

“In conclusion, I would like to raise the point that, although agriculture is derived from the two root words field and cultivation, time has shown that it is more than just planting and harvesting.

“Agriculture, is a way of life, it is commerce, it is a lifeline and it is community.

“It is also the invisible force which connects all of us here today. And therefore, my hope is that the Netherlands Pavilion at the Nigeria Agrofood Trade Fair 2024 will generate significant new strategic partnerships and new economic missions promoting the further growth of the Nigerian agricultural sector.

“Not solely for economic development but also solidifying the years of trade we have and will continue to share with Nigeria.”

Paul Maerz, Managing Director of the organisers fairtrade Messe, while welcoming participants , said as  Africa’s largest economy continues to invest in agrofood and plastprintpack solutions, products, and technologies, “we stand at the threshold of unprecedented opportunities for all market participants.

“Nigeria’s investments in food & packaging technology are soaring, positioning the nation as a key player in Africa, trailing only South Africa and leading before Egypt.

He added Nigeria’s food production has witnessed a remarkable surge of 40% in recent years, from €26bn in 2016 to €36bn in 2020, projected to rise by 48% between 2021 and 2024, from €42bn to €63bn. (Euromonitor International).

“Despite significant investments in local food production, Nigeria remains one of Africa’s foremost food importers and food imports are surging further. “

He added that Nigeria emerges as a leader in plastics technology investments, with remarkable growth rates.

“Nigerian imports of printing & paper processing technology continue to surge, securing Nigeria’s position as the second- largest investor in sub- Saharan Africa.

Maerz noted that Nigeria leads in packaging technology investments in Africa before South Africa and Egypt, signaling bright prospects for sustainable growth.

“The rapid population growth from 216 million in 2024 to 411 million in 2050 demands sustainable investments in Nigeria’s agro-food and plastprintpack industry, and together, we are poised to meet this challenge head-on.”

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