World Food Day: Is Agribusiness the next locus of opportunities for entrepreneurs?

Governments around the globe have prioritized food security as global food chain reels from the impact of months of COVID-19 enforced trade and movement restrictions. The need to make food available for everyone in good quantity, form and quality is, therefore, a strong focus of major policy discussions from the United Nations to every regional bloc, national body and agency. This trend has been projected to yield opportunities for willing entrepreneurs.

Grains such as Rice, Maize, and Wheat, besides tubers comprising Yam and Cassava, are needed in high supplies to meet target annual quotas. Smallholder farmers who produce about 70 per cent of the total food quota in Nigeria are being supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through initiatives such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme to enable them to increase farm yield for the next harvest season.

Entrepreneurs may not have to go back to the farm to take advantage of the policy focus on agriculture; but here are the two key areas of opportunities willing entrepreneurs can tap while smallholder farmers concentrate on expanding the produce from the farms:

  1. Create a deep supply chain to conveniently connect farm to market: It has been said that a large portion of local produce end-up getting spoilt on the farms especially in Northern Nigeria. Barring bad roads, technology can be used to aggregate demand and facilitate speedy transportation of fresh produce to retail stores across cities. The intricacies need to be worked out but this segment remains a problematic area can truly be tackled by fresh ideas among which is tech innovation.
  2. Adopt food processing: Fresh produce whether it is Maize, Rice, Beans, Yam, Wheat, Cassava and more are calling for new applications and packaging techniques to extend their shelf life. This is because good portions of the food are eaten in cities where consumers love to shop once in a week, cook infrequently and refrigerate often. Cassava often used as the major ingredient in making local Fufu; Yam as the major ingredient in Pounded Yam, Beans in Moimoi, can be processed into dry powder in view of the consumers’ use rate and purchase behaviour. This is labour intensive though. Although there are a number of small firms entering into the sector, the sector is still large enough to take in new entrants considering the size of the Nigerian population. However, getting the processing, packaging and distribution right is part of an attractive business model that entrepreneurs should be looking to develop as the market in Nigeria has shown a clear preference for farm-to-table products. More, the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced consumers to cook and eat at home. By processing fresh produce into an easy-to-cook formula, a new business should take shape for entrepreneurs willing to put in the work.

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