Sub-optimal logistics is the root cause of agro-food losses in developing and emerging countries. In Benin and Nigeria, agro-food stakeholders have indicated that the development of logistics and transport capacity is needed together with an improved access to financing in order to make agro-logistics more efficient and to reduce logistics losses.
Whilst almost 800 million people worldwide are currently estimated to be undernourished, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost each year. Moreover, the world population is predicted to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050 and trends suggest that the greatest demand for more food comes from the poorer communities where the highest demographic growth will take place. In light of this, current food supply levels will need to increase by at least 60% to meet the growing demand for food.
Unsurprisingly, many governments have identified the reduction of food losses as a policy priority. Existing case material indicates that in developing and emerging economies food losses occur at the beginning of the agro-food chain and in particular from farms to pack-houses or processing plants. Sub-optimal transport and handling are especially responsible for the huge losses. Based on the results of studies that it has in different countries, Buck Consultants International estimates that between 60% and 80% of food losses could be avoided by optimizing transport, packaging and handling.
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs assigned BCI to scan the agro-logistics sector of Nigeria and neighbouring Benin with a view to identifying opportunities for Dutch businesses to invest in agro-logistics. To achieve this, the logistics chains of the following three products were assessed: tomatoes, pineapples and capsicum (peppers).
Nigeria is the economic powerhouse of Africa where the development of an agricultural policy has only been a policy priority since 2010 and the agricultural output is insufficient to feed the growing population. Consequently, there are many opportunities to further develop efficient agro-logistics and substantially reduce losses. The production areas are mainly situated in the north of the country while the large consumption markets are found in the south. This means that the transport distances are considerable - in cases up to 1,000km. In addition, in most instances transport arrangements are informal and trucks are predominantly not refrigerated. The packaging of products is also sub-optimal and the quality of the products that reach the wholesale markets in the south of the country is poor.
Benin is not endowed with resources and agriculture is considered by the government as a focus area of development. Value chains are only developed in a nodal way and are mainly based on pineapples and tomatoes. Furthermore, there is a large demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in the Nigerian Lagos-Ibadan agglomeration that borders Benin. A lively trade currently exists between the two countries, 60% to 80% of which is informal. In Benin, agro-logistics is not well developed and there are many similarities with Nigeria in this sector. Agro-stakeholders have also specifically identified poor road conditions and numerous roadblocks as impeding on trade and logistics.