Food industries across the world have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this increases the risk of food insecurity. While in advanced economies like the United States, production has been suspended in the dairy industry due to an inability to distribute produce via existing channels. Emerging economies like Nigeria struggle with challenges of transporting produce from the farm to the end-consumer. These challenges create a need to do things differently to ensure food production is protected. Africa has a greater food insecurity risk as a net-food importing continent.
What are the challenges for Nigeria’s food industry and where are the opportunities for growth? Increased post-harvest waste is a challenge as farmers are unable to sell produce via traditional distribution channels. For instance, many farmers across the country depended on the Mile 12 market in Lagos to sell harvested produce, however with inter-state travel restrictions this is not a viable channel. Similarly, logistics a challenge pre COVID-19, is more difficult with less reliability and increased price volatility. The industry is not regulated thus increasing the risk of uncoordinated activities. Other challenges in the industry include price volatility of inputs and harvested produce, higher inventory cycles with food manufacturers such as Honeywell due to supply disruption and lower food supply to serve local demand due to closed international borders.
Farmz2U is focusing on improving farmer’s activities to ensure food security. Our COVID response strategy has two objectives, which is funded by an international grant. Our goal is to facilitate a minimum of 500 trades between farmers and the market by connecting farmers to new distribution channels. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased need for direct communication between farmers and food producers to better manage changing production schedules. Furthermore, there has been an increase in online distribution channels like Farmcrowdy Foods. Our aim is to support these changes using a USSD service to capture farmers’ available produce and enable trade through buyer matching. In addition, we would support a minimum of 5000 farmers with our farming management platform with features like input pricing & procurement and disease management through digital agronomy services. Both objectives are in line with our business mission of “helping farmers farm better with tailored agricultural expertise using data and access to market”. We are currently offering free access on our platform until August 2020.