The international organic industry is worth more than S200 billion yearly, according to analysts. It remains a key market segment for major food producers and ambitious small businesses.
In fact, the segment has been identified as the fastest growing in the food industry.
Demand for organic and fair-trade products is increasing in the international market. Available records show a rapid increase in market share of such products on the international markets providing real opportunities for producers to generate incomes and increase returns on investments. These niche markets offer opportunities for small farmers in Nigeria. Furthermore, these markets usually offer price premiums. More consumers are willing to pay a higher price for the assurance that producers receive a fair price that covers the costs of sustainable production, allows a fair remuneration of farm workers and provides a sustainable livelihood for food producers.
Despite emerging opportunities, few Nigerians are selling their produce on the international market because without the requisite certificate from a recognised certifying body, no produce is accepted as organic. Also, organic and fair-trade markets demand high quality products, and farmers need to meet the standards and face certification costs.
These were the points at the just-concluded National Organic Agriculture Business Summit (NOABS) held in Lagos.
The summit was themed: “Organic agriculture: Abundant opportunities for health and hospitality businesses.”
The event brought farmers, scientists, extension agents, industry members and key policy influencers together to address the challenges facing organic agriculture and to share knowledge.
Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria (NOAN) President, Prof. Victor Olowe said if the right policy measures were taken, organic farming could grow tremendously, leading to, perhaps, doubled income for farmers.
With increasing considerations on healthy food consumption, he noted that responsible and sustainable farming emphasis on certification has become prominent.
Olowe noted that certifications provide comparative advantage for farmers interested in organic farming.
According to him, organic product that has traceability would possibly attract a higher price.
He said most farmers would need to be trained in such skills before they could take full advantage of the emerging market.
Lead speaker and Abayomi Farms Chief Executive, Prof. Akin Abayomi said a visit to his organic farm at Ikoyi, Osun State could be quite an eye opener. The farmland resembles the laboratory of any agricultural scientist. He follows what is known as integrated organic farming. Not only does he not use pesticides on the 300-acre farm, but it also comprises many other practices such as bee keeping, biogas production, water harvesting and composting.
A combination of these practices is sure to make organic farming successful ecologically. With success comes challenges.The cost of organic food is priced higher than food grown with the use of chemicals .
Another problem for organic farmers, such as Abayomi’s is that Nigeria lacks a legal authority procedure for certifying organic foods.
The challenges notwithstanding, Lagos State Agricultural Development Authority (LSADA) Programme Manager Programme Manager, Dr. Olalekan Pereira Shiteolu said the state will continue to support organic agriculture and to motivate farmers to adopt good agricultural practices.
Represented by the Deputy Director, Extension Services, Mrs. Kosoko Enitan, the Programme Manager said the government had taken some initiatives, including promoting the organic farming component, to boost food production.
The Oyo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Mr Oyewole Oyewumi, has called on erosion-prone communities to engage in organic farming to minimise soil erosion.
Oyewumi described organic farming as a method of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, inorganic fertiliser, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones. It, however, provides an alternative care that promotes the health and meets the behavioural needs of livestock.
The commissioner said organic agriculture could reduce soil erosion by 50 per cent. Besides, he said organic agriculture was of great importance to human, animal, agro-production ecosystems, the environment, the farming community and society because of its ability to keep the soil intact.