The export business remains one of the most lucrative endeavours anyone can engage in judging by the abundance of many products that can be exported from Nigeria to many countries across the world. It is also a business that offers lots of room for new entrants to come into it as the industry is still relatively under exploited, making Nigeria to shortchange itself from the billions of dollars that accrue to international trade yearly. Mr. Albert Opute, a Trainer, consultant, and exporter since 2007 reveal his top seven exportable products that can make anyone rich. He also exposes the inner operation of an export business and gives a guide into starting and making a great success as an exporter.
Enjoy the interview:
What are your top 7 exportable products from Nigeria that are very lucrative and selling fast in the international market right now?
1. Gallstones; 2. Cashew nuts; 3. Soybeans; 4. Sesame Seeds; 5. Bitter kola; 6. Ginger; 7. Charcoal.
Why did you choose these 7 products?
Well, from our research we have come to understand that these are the products that really move fast in the export market because of the importance and the uses of the products and from my years of practice, I have never sold or exported any other product outside Nigeria like these ones.
They sell like hot cakes and are highly competitive in the marketplace. Also, the destination of the products, that is, the countries that buy them have over the years continue to ask for it without having alternatives, and because these products have high economic value that each of them can be used for several other things as a component for use in accomplishing other products. You can see why the demand is very high that sometimes we can’t even meet orders. Let us take for instance bitter kola, which is also known as Garcinia Kola. It is a major component used for the cure of malaria worldwide, because of this fact, countries that are battling with malaria, or pharmaceutical companies that produce anti malaria drugs buy it in large quantities to make drugs for cure and prevention of malaria.
Where can they be sourced in Nigeria and how can they be sourced at cheaper rate?
They can be source from the villages around us like Ondo, Jalingo, and Oshogbo. This is one thing we as a nation should be grateful to God for, for the natural endowments and resources He has blessed us with. We have these products in abundance and some nations around the world are looking for it. The irony of it is that most villages that have these products in abundance and don’t know what to do with it are wasting it, but if you have the information of who needs it and is ready to pay for it, then you have just found yourself a business that can keep making money for your entire generation.
How can one meet the export specification for the products?
It is very easy; some of the products are specified by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, or the Ministry of Health, but in the case of the gallstones, the Ministry of Health is perfect for giving you the specification. You can visit their office or use a registered lab to get the right specification. However, most time buyers do the test by asking you to send samples of the products. Quality Control is very important when it comes to maintaining a good quality. This implies that exportable product, including bitter kola must be free of foreign matters like stones, dirt, papers, nylon, sands, etc. They must not be among the product you are exporting, because this will not only add unnecessary weight but will contaminate the product, especially while it is used for medicinal and food purposes.
Is it only the Federal Ministry of health that has the right to certify your products for export?
No, they are not the only one but I always advice that you take your products there first because once the Federal Ministry of Health has certified your products, all other agencies are just going to succumb to that. The Federal Ministry of Health and the Standard Organizations of Nigeria are like the most important agency when it comes to certification of products. Even though there are other agencies, these two must not be overlooked. Also, I will like you to know that when it comes to food stuff you cannot overlook NAFDAC, but if you are using NACHO at the international airport where you want to send your stuff through cargo, there are agencies approved by the Federal Government to check every item that is exported. At the airport also, your products can be inspected and certified before exporting it. But if you want to use courier service delivery, you may need to provide some documentation of your company before your products will be inspected and certified for export.
How can a new comer to export get into this business of exporting any of the products?
To get into export business, it’s a must you get a good mentor who can always guide you on what to do at any given time. This is what most of us don’t consider very important when it comes to doing business and doing it right. There is a way to do anything that is worth doing in life, and if you have chosen to do the business of exporting, therefore, you need a mentor or you need a proper training to know the does and don’t of that business.
Where is the hottest export market for these products?
The hottest markets for the 7 products mentioned are China, Germany, India, and Brazil. The four countries are known for buying the products listed above. Though other countries also buy, but major buyers come from the four countries I just mentioned. Thank God for the Internet and other forums of business networking that we have now where we can make searches and get connected to other people that are ready to do business with us. For instance, if you belong to an international organization like the chamber of commerce and industry, you might be favoured to have a link to some of these destinations.
How does one sell in foreign market?
Proper pricing, complete and accurate quotation and choice of terms of trade and payment are four critical elements in selling a product or service internationally. Of the four, pricing is the most problematic even for the experienced exporter. Pricing consideration usually includes: At what price should the firm sell its product in the foreign market?
Does the foreign price reflect the product’s quality? Is the price competitive? Should the firm pursue market penetration or market skimming pricing objectives abroad? What type of discount (trade, cash, quantity) and allowances (advertising, trade off) should the firm offer its foreign customers? Should prices differ with market segment? What should the firm do about product line pricing? What pricing options are available if the firm’s costs increase or decrease? Is the demand in the foreign market elastic or inelastic? Are the prices going to be viewed by the foreign government as reasonable?
Do the foreign country dumping laws pose a problem?
As in the domestic market, the price at which a product or service is sold directly determines a firm’s revenue. It is essential that a firm’s market research include an evaluation of all the variables that may affect the price range for the product or service. If a firm’s price is too high, the product or service will not sell. If the price is too low, export activities may not be sufficiently profitable or may not create a net loss. The traditional components for determining proper pricing are cost, market demand and competition. These categories are the same for domestic and foreign sales and must be evaluated in view of the firm’s objective in entering the foreign market. An analysis of each component from an export perspective may result in export prices that are different from domestic prices.
How does an exporter put together his quotation and pro forma invoices for a foreign buyer?
Many export transactions, particularly first time export transactions, begin with receipt of an inquiry from abroad, followed by a request for a quotation or a pro forma invoice. A quotation describes the product, states a price for it, with the time, of shipment, and specifies the terms of sale and terms of payment. Since the foreign buyers may not be familiar with the product, the description of it in an overseas quotation usually must be more detailed than in a domestic quotation. The description should include the following: Buyers name and address; buyers address number and date of inquiry; listing of reference product and brief description; price of each item; gross and net shipping weight (in metric units where appropriate); total cubic volume and dimensions (in metric units where appropriate) packed for export; trade discount if applicable; delivery points; terms of payment; insurance and shipping costs; validity period for quotation; total charges to be paid by customers; estimated shipping date to factory or port; and estimated date of shipping arrival.
Sellers are often requested to submit a pro forma invoice with or instead of a quotation. Pro forma invoices are not for payment purposes but are essentially quotation in an invoice format. In addition to the foreign list of items, a pro forma invoice should include a statement certifying the country of origin of the goods. Also, the invoice should be conspicuously marked “pro forma”. These invoices are only models that the buyer uses when applying for imports or arranging for funds. In fact, it is good business practice to include a pro forma invoice with any international quotation, regardless of whether it has been requested. When final collection invoices are being prepared at the time of shipment, it is advisable to check with reliable sources for special invoicing requirement that may prevail in the country of destination. It is very important that price quotation state explicitly that they are subject to change without notice. If a specific price is agreed upon or guaranteed by the exporters, the precise period during which the offer remains valid should be specified.
How can one find genuine buyers from these countries?
With the right knowledge you can find buyers easily. No real exporter exposes this part of their business except a fee is exchanged in agreement for it. This is one of the reasons you need a mentor and to be trained.. Your mentor or the training you take will give you information that has been tested and proven, nevertheless if you are with the right association, you will get the right information, don’t try to do it all alone, get connected! How does one ship out the product and get paid? I only know of two channels for shipping out these products, you either use the air cargo or ship cargo. But first, your supplier can tell you the best way to supply them because they know the best and convenient shipping method to use. For me I consider this the easiest thing to do. Also, your best payment process has to be defined by the two parties, and based on trust and relationship, some pay as soon as they received the products, while some will make some deposit and as the products gets to them they pay you your balance, these business thrive more when there is a very good relationship between two parties.
You may want to ask, what if I am just starting out in the business. Now you will see the importance of being trained or having a mentor because sometimes referrer works in this business very well, I can only refer you to someone that I trust and I will also be sure that you can deliver after I have referred you. For air cargo: if it’s in small quantity you can use courier services like EMS, which is reliable and cheap. If the product is much, like from 1ton to 10tons, you can use agents at the port. I use NAHCO and I have good agents that are very reliable.
What are the challenges in this business and what are the solutions?
Let us look at about eight challenges faced by an average Nigerian exporter or newbie: An average Nigerian export is confronted with one problem or the other in the course of carrying out the export business. Mentorship: this is the most serious challenge faced by Nigerian exporters. Export business (not until the recent time ) is not popular as it was left in the hands of few smart investors, therefore most new entrants into the business lack the required knowledge as they only attend one or two days training. But mentorship is required so that he exporter can accumulate experience in the business. Government Policies Regulatory
Policies: another serious challenge being faced by Nigerian exporters is the government policies and regulation which make it difficult to export some Nigerian products. Some of these products may require that the exporter obtains certificate or analysis report before they can be exported. Export goods, on this category are mainly food items.
For instance, it is mandatory that all food items must be NAFDAC certified and a health certificate is obtained. The cost and problems associated with these regulations are streamlined and cost cut down reasonably, export business will be as easy as ABC. Local Charges: exporters are made to pay too high local charges, the bulk of which goes to the hands of individuals and not government agencies due to bad policies and implementation. For instance, there are levies paid by exporters to local associations and at various designated points for trucks carrying containers. Profit Consciousness: most Nigerian exporters are too much in a hurry to make quick profit in their export business transactions. As a result of this, they run into wrong hands from sourcing to executing export process in their quest to reduce cost and make more profits. The prospective exporter needs to be patient and with time good profit will come if the business is sustained.
What is the minimum startup capital?
Startup capital varies and depends on the products you intend to start first. But for bitter kola export you don`t need much to start as you can start with “TRIAL ORDER”, that is, you will have to first send samples to the buyer to confirm that you have the right product that he needs and thereafter grow with time. A trail order can be seen as small scale way of exporting bitter-kola or other products with very little capital start up without going for TONS ORDER, which may need some huge amount to source. Before any prospective exporter starts to source for the bitter kola or other products for export, it is advisable to source for an export order. This involves communicating with a genuine buyer abroad and agreeing on a price and the quantity, packaging method and terms of payment, and delivering method, and such terms as may be relevant. With N100, 000 you can start successfully and with the right knowledge.
Apart from the N100, 000 capital investment you talked about is there anything that one needs to have or know to do this business successfully?
Yes, it is more than N100, 000 capital investments. If you just want to remain a local exporter or you are too busy to get involved big time, then N100, 000 will just be okay for you to start something, going on a low key, but choosing the right product and the right destinations. But if you want to do this export business big time you need some level of registrations. You will have to register with the export commission council and other regulatory bodies that matter. Of course, the Federal Ministry of Health has to give you an approval on all the products you want to export and most importantly, the destination or the buyer has to also give you all the specifications and procedures to follow to reach them.
Once all these requirements are met then you are in business. But note that at the various levels of registrations with the various agencies or bodies you may be required to supply some documentation of your business which means your business must be duly registered with the appropriate bodies or agencies as the case may be.
You will also need to register with some chambers of commerce and industry because this is one major platform for international opportunities. Also, you need to be trained to be able to succeed in this business because this is an industry that thrive by information and information does not come cheap, and from the training you will know what is selling hot in the export market, where to get them cheaper than anywhere else, that is sourcing it locally and how to get it, how to get ready buyers all over the world, how to get your money, and how not to fall for dubious guys out there.
You will also learn how to package the products and how to gain access to some of the agency’s that will help you export your product with ease. In fact, with the training you are equipped in such a way that even right from your leaving room you can access this information and start to run and have the ability to manage all the risk involved in the export market business. The training is so important that you cannot succeed without it; it is like somebody calling himself a doctor without attending a medical training school. There are rudiments in any business and until you know the rudiments you will just be struggling to start but once you are trained for the job you are like a pro that will get the job done.
Is there any way one can start with little or no capital?
Yes, but you will need to have the right information; you can start by just sourcing the products for existing exporters. For instance, maybe you know a village where these products are available in very large quantity and it is like they don’t even know the use of it and are wasting it, you could contact me or any exporter of the product and show them a sample. But before you do that, you must have known the market price that will favor you so that you don’t over price or under price your market. So once you contact the exporter, they will buy it off you and from there you can become one of their local suppliers. If you think you have made enough money you too can pay for the training and become the direct exporter and make more money.
How long have you been in the export business and what has been your experience like?
I have been doing export business since 2007 and I have thought well over 500 people how to export all kind Agro products successfully. My experience so far has been awesome. There are times of disappointments when some transactions didn’t come out successful. There were times government policies kicked against me and you know what happened to that deal? (Lost profit). And there were times everything went fine and smooth, majority were successful.
Any advice to anyone who is interested in this business?
Advice to any serious person that wants to start small scale export is to first get the right knowledge. Make sure you know the Ups and downs of the business before investing any money. Take time to do research about the product and buyers before making any move. And finally, get a good mentor who will take you by hand and walk you through the bad and good of the business.
Yam Tubers, Elubo, White Gari, Yellow Gari, White Beans, Red Beans
Oloyin, Ogbono, Egusi, Cray Fish, Smoked Fish, Stocked Fish (Panla), Dawa Cudes, Palm Oil, Ofada Rice, Chilie Pepper, Smoked fish, Gari, Beans Flour, Melon seed (Egusi Ground), Ogbono,Cassava Flour, Bitterleaf, Dried Ugu leaf:, Palmwine, Coconut processing,Pepper, Hibiscus flower,Pap (Ogi), Ukazi leaf , e.t.c.
Others are —Hot Chilli Pepper – Ground, Kolanut, Ginger beer, Kilishi, Soybean, Groundnut, Okra,
Cassava, Yam, Honey, Snail, Bitter Kola, Ofada rice, Catfish, Shrimps, Pounded Yam
Flour, Poultry, Fruit juice, Cashew, Plantain Flour, Palm Oil Coconut
Processing, Pepper, Hibiscus flower, Pap (Ogi), Ukazi leaf and the rest…