The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) promises to develop five new international airports, and build improved cargo terminals at 12 airports across the country, as part of a bid to increase exports of perishables.
According to FAAN general manager Yakubu Dati, Nigeria needs to reduce its dependence on oil exports. Growers of products such as mangoes, peppers, tomatoes and lettuces are working with carriers to identify new export trade lanes.
Airfreight imports into Nigeria were more than four times the export total in the first half of 2012. “Cargo planes fly into the country and fly out empty,” Dati says.
West Africa has worked hard to avoid any possible repeat of the situation almost three years ago when the volcanic eruption in Iceland forced the closure of European airspace. Fruit and vegetable exporters saw their produce, normally flown to Europe’s supermarkets and caterers, lie rotting because of a lack of cold storage.
FAAN says private investors will be invited in to operate the new facilities, including temperature-controlled perishables stores, in one of Africa’s more liberalized aviation markets.
Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (Nahco Aviance), the former state-owned operator, led the way by inaugurating a new $17 million warehouse at Lagos International airport last fall. Nahco is now one of four licensed cargo handlers but still controls 75 percent of the market.
The new facility incorporates large cold rooms and freezers and a semi-automated handling system. Nahco’s chief operating officer, Norbert Bielderman, describes it as the largest warehouse of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.