Investors and other key players in the agricultural sector are canvassing for a robust rail transportation system for agricultural produce to reduce transportation costs, improve Nigeria’s agro logistic capacity and reduce heavy vehicle trips across the country.
While addressing an agribusiness forum in Lagos, Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president, Nigeria AgriBusiness Group, said that linking all parts of the logistics chain correctly would lead to an increase in the volume of agro cargoes.
Narrating his previous loss of 33 cows and hundreds of crates of tomatoes due to rail transportation, Ijewere noted that train systems lack the capacity for ferrying livestock and produce healthily.
“We tried to use the rail system. We got Railconnect and entered a contract with them. They supplied us the first batch of 1,820 cows, but 20 died in between. And when they were being brought down at Ijokoro, 11 of them broke their legs, because there was no platform. Because of the stress of bringing them to my place, we lost another 11 cows.
“The same thing happened to tomato. I brought tomato by rail twice. The first time the train arrived at Iddo with 800 crates, it arrived fully cooked, water was dripping all the way; Why? Because the Nigeria Railway Corporation sealed it all up, no air-conditioning.
“The second consignment arrived, they put windows on them, but at Lokoja, there was a derailment, the train had to stay there for four days, and the time it arrived here again, we got only four crates out of 800.”
Caleb Usoh,country manager, for OCP Nigeria, added that rail transportation has the potential to transform agricultural freight and, especially, to assist horticulture growers in preserving the freshness of their produce.
Meanwhile, Abel Ogunwale, a World Bank consultant, has insisted upon the need for additional terminal facilities in order to attract more agricultural traffic onto the rails, noting that the agric sector has a strong appetite for logistics services.