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To mitigate the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the horticultural industry actors have been assured of steady technical assistance and capacity-building activities to meet market requirements and improve sustainability for export.

The support, courtesy of COLEACP, through its Fit for Market Plus (FFM +) program, is targeted towards providing support to implement quality management systems for food safety and high-quality produce; training on crop protection strategies; support to facilitate public-private sector dialogue and partnerships, and dissemination of key information and training to regulators and private operators to facilitate the export of horticultural products.

COLEACP is a non-profit association, supporting the horticultural industry in Africa, Cathe ribbean and the Pacific States (ACP). Its mission is to develop inclusive, sustainable trade in fruit & vegetables and food products, focusing on the ACP countries’ trade with one another and with the European Union (EU).

This will be done through a new EU-funded programme, FFM+, which will provide technical assistance and capacity-building activities that allow horticultural businesses to meet market requirements, improve sustainability and increase resilience against external shocks. The programme will be implemented across an estimated 50 countries, including Nigeria.

“This new five-year, €25 million programme: “Mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening the sustainability of the ACP horticultural sector” – will support actors in the value chain to mitigate the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time seize new market opportunities by embracing green, low-carbon, climate-resilient strategies through developing and adopting relevant practices, skills and technologies.”

While noting that the initiative builds on COLEACP’s 20-year history of implementing development programmes, Schepers said the key to all COLEACP’s programme activities, conducted with ACP partners, has been to first identify the technical challenges and opportunities to access markets; then work to reduce the challenges and create the conditions to leverage the opportunities, and ultimately to sustainably strengthen the capacity of partner beneficiaries to respond effectively to the changing context.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the President of the Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFGEAN), Mr. Akintunde Sawyerr, who lauded the initiative, said the firm has been partnering with AFGEAN in the last 10 years, adding that the collaboration had consistently assisted its members and other companies in the country.

“AFGEAN was mainly set up to assist Nigerians to export fresh produce to promote countries, to generate a lot of agric sustainability and foreign exchange for the country.

“It is sad to see cargo flights coming into the country and leaving empty. There are lots of opportunities in the fresh produce industry that Nigerians can tap into. COLEACP’s support is real, it is practical and AFGEAN has benefited immensely. The mistake we are making is that the only way to succeed in the country is through oil and gas. We need to engage in other sectors and see the potential there. The challenge in the agric sector is a long time between planting and gestation period.”