International trade experts have given tips on what exporters of Nigerian non-oil products can do to make their products attractive to foreign markets.
The experts, including Mrs. Elizabeth Nwankwo, Mr. Abdullahi Sidi Aliyu, and Mr. Femi Boyede, gave the tips at the September edition of a monthly webinar series tagged “Talking trade with Femi Boyede”, where issues concerning non-oil products and services are discussed.
They noted that many exporters fail to attract foreign buyers because they lack understanding of international trade rules
Mrs. Nwankwo spoke on “Scaling the Hurdles in the Export Business: An Exporter’s Case Study”.
She said, “Beyond the ability to make available those products, there are a lot of policies and technical requirements that have to be adhered to if non-oil exporters want to succeed in their trade.”
A maximum percentage of preservatives according to her is required for farm produce for the foreign market “In the case of beans, for instance, the percentage is 0.01 microgram of glycole is required in the beans if it is to be accepted by foreign buyers.”
The moisture content of a product like melon according to Nwankwo has to be moderated for the international market.
For those who are interested in exporting smoked fish, she said the standard practice is that the level of smoke that goes into the fish is tested because smoke causes cancer.
“The people of the developed countries care about their citizens and would not want anything to affect their health. So, smoked fish that harbours excess smoke is usually rejected.”
Cocoa and cashew exporters according to her must not compromise the process of production. The exporter must be mindful of the reality of the environment and the implement used in cracking the pod in the case of cocoa.
“The containers used in preserving it should not be painted metal because metal may sip into it. Once water drops on your dried produce, aflatoxins will set in and it will be turned down in those countries”.
Nwankwo who is the CEO /Director of Oklan Best Foods advised that farm produce meant for export like cashew should be well sorted depending on their weight.
She reasoned further that “If the fatty acid is more than 7 percent in palm oil, for instance, it will be rejected.
For Garri to gain international acceptance, she said it must not harbour any moisture.
In his contribution, Mr. Aliyu, an international trade expert and CEO of A.S. Dynamic Ventures Limited, said it is sad that we allow exporters to taste the hardship of export before learning.
“We have agencies of government that are supposed to guide exporters. The problem of product rejection has a big implication for the country. It is the image of the country that is at stake when products are rejected. If there is a stigma on made-in-Nigeria products, it has far-reaching effects,” he said.
Mr. Olufemi Boyede, a Canada-based Nigerian international trade expert, said Nigeria’s non-oil exports are not limited to farm produce. “People should understand that services can be exported. Those who export services should know the rules guiding the exportation of services. There are sites that require the services of writers for instance. But then, to really make an impact, writers must be well versed in the language of the country that requires their services. Good preparation is what makes an opportunity to yield profit,” he said.
Boyede: Non-oil exporters should do due diligence
Boyede noted that some non-oil exporters send a good sample of their products to their clients but end up sending poor quality of the products when they execute the real orders. “That is not too good. It is sending wrong signals to the market. There is a need for uniformity in the quality of products. In your preparation stages, spend as much time as you need to spend to do enough research on the products before exporting.”
He said in Canada for instance, yam from Nigeria is not allowed. “But the Ghanaian can come to buy yam from Nigeria and send from their country and the yam will be accepted. What has happened is that the Ghana exporter has done his due diligence and understands what the Canadian government (through its regulatory authorities) requires. That is why we are saying there is a need for policy engagement between Nigeria and countries where our products are needed.”
Beyond that, Boyede pleaded with exporters to do their due diligence for every product they want to export. “Find out if the people you are exporting to have the license to import the products you are sending. Our policy makers should also engage in international trade diplomacy to help facilitate the shipment of our products to other countries.
Talking about policy issues, Aliyu said most of the cases we face in Nigeria are man-made. “To export your products, some have it in mind that you’re committing a crime. The government puts a lot of emphasis on ease of doing business but in reality, we are not seeing that ease.
“The government is encouraging people to export, unfortunately, we are finding exporting difficult as a result of some man-made issues. On port congestion, Aliyu advised that the government has to ease off and open up other ports to reduce the pressure on Lagos. The over-concentration on Apapa port does not help the economy”
Boyede shared a personal experience of how the product meant for Christmas he sent to Canada from Nigeria suffered a five-month delay.