By Gabriel Ewepu
In this interview, the Italian Trade Agency, ITA, E-Lab Innova, ICE faculty trainer Enrico Turoni urged Nigerian farmers to respond to the high demand for organic agricultural products in Europe while speaking of the essence of the training of Nigerian farmers modern agricultural technology from Italy.
Can you give us a brief overview of yourself?
I graduated from the University of Bologna in 1994. Subsequently, I had my first internship experience at the University of Barcelona in Spain and then another internship at the University of Texas in the United States. In 2004, I became President of Consorzio Cermac. Cermac, is an organization that promotes Italian technologies in the agricultural production sector in international markets. I was responsible for the organization of different seminars, experimental tests in the field with agricultural technologies proposed by Italian companies in different countries of the world. I have been involved in trainings on issues related to the international management of the fruit and vegetable market and to fruit and vegetable production technologies from the field to post-harvest in many countries around the world.
Why the choice of Nigeria for this training provided by the Italian Trade Agency had recently?
This choice is due to the greater interest in Italian technologies linked to the agricultural chain of Nigerian companies. The ITA team have received a number of quests in recent years, and due to the importance of the country, we would not overlook Nigeria in our Lab Innova project. As Italy is currently one of the leading producers of fruit and vegetables in the world with advanced post-harvest technology, it could play an important role in increasing the activities of Nigeria and African companies operating in this sector.
What was your desired expectation of these training sessions?
Lab Innova intends to contribute to the development of the partnership between European and African companies by focusing on managerial training, innovation and technology transfer in the African agricultural and agro-industrial sector. In Italy, manufacturers of agricultural machinery aim for the highest quality with excellent technology that encourages the development of the agricultural sector in African countries; our expectations are to increase the skills of those involved in the agricultural value chain.
Nigerian farmers are mainly in rural areas, and most of them are not all literate, what innovative approach do you think can help them to use modern and simple farm machinery for higher productivity?
Where possible, the best way is to conduct field tests. On-farm testing improves the reliability of crop management decisions. The goal of an on-farm trial is to determine how well different management options perform against each other in your environment and cropping system.
Speaking about the opportunities for men and women in the Nigerian agribusiness sector in terms of exporting agricultural products, what is the ITA doing to help them truly enter the European market?
As an extension of our training, we will invite a delegation of Nigerian companies to attend MACFRUT. The Macfrut Fair is the only supply chain fair to dedicate an entire pavilion to Sub-Saharan Africa. It is the ideal platform to connect with Italian, European and global counterparts involved in the agribusiness value chain. In addition, the Italian Trade Agency will organize B2B meetings for the Nigerian participants of the delegation.
What agricultural products are in most demand in Nigeria and at what time of year?
The European market is increasingly interested in the production of mangoes, avocados, passion fruit and lychees. The market needs year round availability, so that Nigerian producers can find opportunities in the low season. This is an interesting market in Europe because demand is expected to grow in the years to come, especially for organic productions. An example is the export of fresh or dried ginger and shea butter. Shea butter is widely used in the cosmetics and healthcare industry, and the demand is increasing. The European Union is the world’s largest market for edible nuts; as it accounts for over 40 percent of world nut imports, as you can imagine, there are many exciting opportunities.
Are you fundamentally demanding on organic agricultural products?
Nowadays, organic products have a higher demand in the market. The organic food industry in Europe is a lucrative market, and consumers increasingly look for fresh organic produce because it is associated with better health and taste. The market demands tropical fruits (fresh or dried), nuts and spices. The European Commission provides comprehensive information on organic farming, EU policy and international trade in organic products on its organic farming website.
Do you have any subsidies to grant to Nigerian exporters of agricultural products in order to increase their productivity to meet the demands of the European market?
I suggest visiting the European Commission and its International Development Assistance website. The European Union carries out various political actions by offering grants to developing countries for various projects.
What is your assessment of the Nigerian agricultural sector for international trade?
Food safety and certifications have become a major requirement for fresh produce in European trade; Nigerian exporters with products fully compliant with EU requirements will have guaranteed success. Remember the importance of proper management of post-harvest production is to preserve quality; The transport and logistics industry can play a vital role in Nigeria’s agricultural development to facilitate the logistics of fruit and vegetable export. Kenya provides a good example in this regard: Kenya has a dozen medium and large enterprises with a turnover of around 10 to 70 million euros. Logistics are easier as they are not far from Nairobi and it is easier to connect to the airport.