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Food processing : Big opportunity waiting to be taken.

Our fresh produce is rotting away, who can turn this waste into money? The Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFPGEAN) says between 55 per cent and 72 per cent of fresh produce grown in the country perish before they can be consumed.

The Executive Secretary of the association, Mr. Akin Sawyerr, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Monday that this was because fresh produce needed to be kept in refrigerated conditions soon after harvest. “Fresh produce production has the same challenges as other agricultural products but its uniqueness lies in its being very perishable.

Inflation affecting staple food

Food is one of the fast moving consumer goods anywhere in the world. The demand for processed food has been growing steadily in the last few years. The growth is due to several factors as articulated below:

  1. Growing population of the ‘middle class’:  For the purpose of this article, middle class means a group of people who earn regular income. This group has been growing steadily due to Nigerian large population. About 70% of the labour force are said to be in some form of employment. People in this group are generally able to purchase products with an added value.
  2. Increase awareness on healthy living: The middle class are generally more aware of the need for healthy food. They are willing to buy food products that meet higher hygienic standard, which may not be available in the open market.
  3. Urbanisation: The middle class is found in the cities, which are becoming more and more congested. This makes rather difficult to access markets, resulting in people shopping in supermarkets. Supermarkets are now stocking varieties of food stuff to satisfy this middle class.

Packaged food: Ofada rice

We have established the fact that the market for process food does exist, how then can you start food processing business?

  1. Conduct a market survey: You need to understand your market, and the easiest way to do this is to estimate the volume of business of your potential competitors. This might be difficult, but you can try. One way to do this is by estimating quantity and rate of purchase of similar products in supermarket in your city. You also need to identify gaps in the market in the cities near you. It could be that the prices of particular processed food are too high, or is not well packaged, or is of low quality.
  2. Start small: It is easier to start small particularly when you have little money. Focus on meeting real needs of your potential customers. Your products should attempt to fill the gaps observed during your market survey. Easiest way to start is to source and package quality food items. You may want to list the benefits and composition of your food products in your label. Getting necessary stamp of approval from regulatory agencies like NAFDAC can be an advantage.
  3. Advertise and market your products: People generally put less emphasis on this aspect of business, but it is by far the most important. You only generate revenue and profit when you sell your products. Your first customers would be your friends and relatives. You can also sell to retailers or directly yourselves. People only buy your product when they know about it, so you need to find ways to advertise your products.

Wishing you success as consider and take steps to start or expand your business today.