Agro-economists like Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the current President of African Development Bank (AfDB), and Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, the Director-General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), at various forums, suggested vibrant means of lifting Nigerians, especially farmers and small-scale processors, out of poverty.
One of the ways is the approach of seeing and treating agriculture as a business, and some strategies to implement the approach are improved increased productivity, value addition and virtual or actual market linkage.
Lagos State appears to be one of the first states to key into the research-based approach to agriculture, first, by linking Kebbi State rice farmers to the Lagos purchasing power through the LAKE Rice, produced and processed in Kebbi and marketed in Lagos. The second attempt is linking Lagos State farmers with vibrant buyers.
The Lagos State population of around 22 million people, the emerging middle class, averagely high disposable incomes of residents and increasing demand for food encapsulate the potency of lifting farmers out of poverty, and the revolution has just begun with the Lagos State’s model of linking farmers with buoyant buyers.
Various foods, vegetables, fruits, and other less expensive agro consumables take a larger part of the disposable incomes of Nigerians, and by extension, Lagos residents, daily.
However, farmers who are the primary producers of food are schemed out of the gains and they languish in poverty despite the convincing data that agriculture absorbs over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s workforce.
By transporting produce from rural areas in the exterior part of Lagos and neighbouring states, middlemen make all the gains, leaving the toiling farmers poorer.
To bridge this gap, deepen opportunities and promote prosperity for farmers in Lagos and neighbouring states, based on their competitive advantage, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government has launched a new platform to connect farmers and those involved in the agribusiness with the urban Lagos market.
With a GDP of $136bn as of 2017, which is higher than 42 other African countries, Lagos is conservatively estimated to consume at least N3 billion worth of fresh agricultural produce daily. A very huge market it is.
Figures from the state government show 8,000 heads of cattle are slaughtered daily in Lagos abattoirs as of 2018, with15.96 million of 50kg bags of rice consumed annually.
The government through, the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, launched its maiden Market Linkage Initiative, tagged Eko City Farmers Market (ECFM), which connects local farmers to local buyers in an urban and modern setting.
The maiden edition, which held at the Tafawa Balewa Square, afforded Lagosians the opportunity to buy fresh farm produce at farm gate prices, in a serene, clean, and beautifully arranged stalled environment.
Fishermen from the coastal communities across the state brought their catch. Different types of fresh and live fishes were displayed for sale. Cow meat sellers also slaughtered some heads of cattle. In fact, analytics showed they made the highest sales.
Cassava farmers sold unprocessed root and tuber crops to buyers. About 142 participated and 771 purchased fresh and freshly packed foods from the farmers.
The Eko City Farmers’ Market was also an opportunity for the government to demonstrate that its partnership with the Kebbi State government was paying off. Bags of Lake Rice were put on display with each customer only able to buy five for fairness and equity. A bag of 25kg was sold for N8,500, while a 50kg bag was sold for N17,000, an amount far lower than other brands of rice in the same category which goes for as high as N23,000 to N25,000 for a 50kg bag in the market.
Also, fresh perishable fruits and vegetables like water melon, banana, spinach, greens, carrots, oranges, onions, green pepper, hot chili and tomatoes of the high quality were sold at friendly prices to customers, while farmers maximised profitability by eliminating or minimising middlemen.
Similarly, Information Technologies, as espoused by international institutes and corporates, is now being adopted by government agencies, private firms and fast-moving consumer goods, and has also been embraced by the Lagos State government to fast-track agro-economic and social developments.
Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, the State’s Deputy Governor who represented the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said, “In the next few weeks, we would open our online marketplace, thus connecting farmers and buyers in real-time. Buyers will be able to find any farmer of their choice and buy directly from them. Our administration will continue to leverage contemporary solutions to provide the best of its kind market linkage services.”
Over 95 per cent of the farmers and vendors who participated registered online, and electronic Point-of-Sales (POS) gadgets and mobile ATMs were deployed, thus bringing transparency and efficiency to the overall process while deepening financial inclusion for farmers.
Analytics solutions were deployed at the event to monitor all activities and track all sales to the last kobo. Insights generated at the maiden event indicated that close to 1,000 transactions were recorded worth millions of naira in value. Payment channels utilised to complete these transactions were from cash, POS, bank transfers and forex, amongst others.
Social media platforms were also used to drive awareness and improve sales prospects, to reach over one million people on the event day.
Prince Gbolahan Lawal, the state Commissioner for Agriculture, explained that the idea of the virtual and actual marketplaces had its genesis from the outcome of a stakeholders’ summit the ministry held in September 2019, where issues of agricultural produce market and facilitating market linkage for farmers featured prominently in the discussions and subsequently the communiqué that emanated from the summit.
“Studies have shown that farmers in the state lack direct access to the markets of their produce such that most of the time, they sell their produce to middlemen at rather incredible prices. The farmers that are able to penetrate the market find it even more difficult to break even as they are forced to sell at the association-dictated prices,” he added.
He said in the long run, the Sanwo-Olu-led administration would develop the Eko City Farmers’ Market into an international food market and innovation exchange platform.
Ashake Akinwande, a catfish farmer who participated in the maiden edition of the farmers’ market, commended the initiative. She said as a fish farmer, she would normally sell at a loss to middlemen who would barely help her break- even.
“I thank Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for this initiative. Because of it, people like me will smile home today. The access I have to buyers via this platform means I can sell my produce directly at a reasonable price,” Ashake added.
Implications And Why Other States Should Emulate
Truly, demand drives profitability and production, and intensification of production requires more farm hands, more seeds, fertilizer, other agrochemicals, transport, veterinary and weed management services. The multiplier effect on the economy and gross domestic product could be great, and could really make value chain players live above poverty line if the market linkage is sustained.
The initiative, the state government elucidated, was conceived to offer greater market access to farmers and agribusiness men and women, saying that it would encourage more farmers and other new entrants into the sector, thus enabling the state to create more jobs and opportunities for Lagosians.
Based on the foregoing, it is not only economically expedient for other states of the federation to deliberately create market linkages for their farmers, but also advantageous to employ technologies, spaces and other means like inter-state collaboration to constantly empower farmers through market information services and sales platforms that have the potential to change their economic fortunes, intensify agricultural productivity and boost means of livelihood of the rural farmers.