Entrepreneurs and a nation’s comparative advantage

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Small business owners in the agribusiness development value chain need to deploy entrepreneurial parachutes, to create supportive processes to enable them to outpace competition and survive recession.

Indian garri, the unwelcomed guest

This week, Nigerians were dismayed to find out that imported garri labelled Indian garri was being sold in some supermarkets in the country. This products were packaged in 500g bags with the picture of a lady and Asia’s finest foods inscription. They had a price tag of N450.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control alleged that the product was produced in Ghana, a neighbouring West African country, trading partner and Nigeria’s age-long arch rival, and packaged in the United Kingdom, our former colonial master.

The media had reported in December 2016 that the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted a 20 feet container of ready-to-eat foods such as egusi soup, jollof rice, ogbono and yam porridge imported from India at its Tin-Can Island Command.

Predatory economic wind

There is a gust of predatory Darwinian wind blowing across the global economy. The leaders are faced with the possibility of a multi-racial capitalism atrophy looming in the horizon.

European Union is yet to identify the most effective model to stabilise its bloc after Brexit. Trump America is in a soul-searching mode with the new wave of benevolent socio-economic protectionism.

India, China and other continental players are bullish. They are taking advantage of the recession in Nigeria. They will use collaborators who are driven by greed to undermine the country’s comparative advantage. They may use unconventional means to flood the market with alternative products because of its macroeconomic difficulties.

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Social revolution in agric sector

But the wind of social revolution is blowing in the depressed economy. Its transformation will be largely private sector-driven like the Nollywood phenomenon. Entrepreneurs in the agribusiness value chain must be pragmatic.

The Executive Director, Natural Nutrient Limited, Sola Adeniyi, criticised government and its regulatory agencies on WhatsApp for oversight failure that allowed Indian garri into the market.

Stakeholders discussed this development on social media. Opinions were divergent, particularly on the Organic Farmers Group, a WhatsApp group led by Patrick Abayomi Ofarn and other industry experts on interplay of free market, international trade and principle of comparative advantage.

Their dialogue simmered on sectoral entrepreneurial strategy to outwit competition and create competitive advantage, when the nation’s comparative advantage is weakened in a bullish international market.

Nigeria has a comparative advantage in the global cassava production. It is the world’s largest producer of cassava. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations ranks cassava production in Nigeria thrice more than Brazil and almost double the production of Indonesia and Thailand. The production in other African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda appears small in comparison to Nigeria’s substantial output.

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The country is leading in commodity varieties development and agricultural innovativeness like the production of vitamin A-rich cassava products through collaboration among government agencies, development partners and research institutions such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan. In another development, scientists at the University of Ilorin and their counterparts at Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti are partnering to develop an improved rice variety with medicinal potential against cancer.

The Acting Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Mrs. Yetunde Oni, said her agency had seized 26 packs of the Indian garri for analysis.

She affirmed that the product had no NAFDAC number, a prerequisite for food products and drugs sold in Nigeria.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would be collaborating with NAFDAC to investigate the alleged importation of the product into Nigeria.

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