Agriculture is one major sector that is explored by the Federal Government as it strives to fully diversify the nation’s economy. It is not news that Nigeria makes a lot of money from the oil industry. But operators in the agricultural sector say that it is not only crude oil that keeps the Nigerian economy growing. The agricultural sector that gives rise to various products is also the base of the Nigerian economy.
It is a sector that supplies food not only for most Nigerians but also enables farmers to export crops and fruits to other countries. It is, however, important to note that the export of agricultural produce from Nigeria has faced severe limitations, although the country’s agricultural sector is developing fast. Despite this development, the challenges in the sector are daunting and one of such is the inability of farmers to efficiently export some of their produce.
The inability to export their produce has been attributed to the inability of Nigerian farmers to meet relevant international requirements on the health of plants that are meant for export, a development that is impeding foreign trade between Nigeria and other countries.
According to the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, local farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain must, therefore, strive to meet the standards set by international agricultural bodies with respect to the export of commodities.
In one of its latest documents on some of the things which Nigerian farmers need to understand so as to be able to export their produce, which was obtained by our correspondent in Abuja, the Director-General, NAQS, Vincent Isegbe, explained that the country’s foreign trade on agro products was impeded because many countries prohibit the import of contaminated agricultural commodities.
The NAQS is an agency of the Federal Government with the mandate to prevent the introduction, establishment and outbreak of animal and zoonotic diseases as well as pests of plants and fisheries and their products. The agency has the authority to police the health integrity of plant, animals and fisheries within the country and the movement of those products across our borders.
Isegbe says, “The inability of stakeholders across the value chain to meet the relevant sanitary and phytosanitary requirements applicable in the destination countries is the most serious impediment to Nigeria’s participation in foreign trade.
“This is because many countries prohibit the import of produce with mycotoxin contamination, high pesticide residue, microbial contamination, sloppy packaging and labelling.”
He adds, “Nigeria loses huge revenue, servicing narrow export market options. It is our goal to make Nigerian agricultural produce acceptable everywhere in the world. That way, we will earn more foreign exchange from more destination countries.”
The agency says it is leading the government’s drive to stem the tide of the rejection of some Nigerian agricultural produce in foreign markets due to quality defects, adding that it is implementing a programme of backward integration for better export products.
It notes that the intervention, which is tagged, ‘Export Improvement Initiative,’ is to ensure that all relevant activities performed from the fields where the prospective export crops are cultivated up to the point of shipment are consistent with the standard conditions and protocols.
The Manager, Akin Farms, Abuja, Akintunde Solanke, says farmers are beginning to partner the quarantine service agency, as well as other stakeholders in order to be better educated on export quality criteria for agricultural produce.
He says, “Farmers need to understand a lot when it comes to producing food and agricultural crops for export. Aside from partnering or working with the quarantine service, farmers need to be enlightened enough on what they should do when preparing some of their produce for export.”
The NAQS says the highlights of its enlightenment workshops and campaigns are the instruction of stakeholders on global good agricultural practice and the formation of self-regulating associations among the different commodity producer constituencies.
Some farmers in Abuja say that through this strategy, the agency is addressing the fundamental inhibitors of agricultural export and widening the scope for participation of everyday Nigerian in the export business. They say that due to increased knowledge and adaptation to guidelines, Nigeria was able to export 1,983 containers of Hibiscus to Mexico within the first nine months of 2017. It was learnt that the country earned $35m during the period.
Recently a survey was conducted on crop pest on pigeon pea, sorghum and groundnut by the quarantine agency and it was learnt that the result of the pigeon pea survey had paved a way for Nigeria to penetrate the $100bn worth pigeon pea market of India. It was also learnt that the crop pest survey on sorghum had opened the door for Nigeria to export forage sorghum to China, as local company is expected to ship out the first batch of its consignment in the first quarter of this year.
Experts say that in addition to Nigeria’s traditional agro-export items, the country has underutilised but high premium emerging agro-commodities such as sesame, soya bean, cinnamon, pigeon pea, sugar cane, honey and snail that have the capacity to revolutionise Nigeria’s non-oil export business.
They say there is also an export value chain for onions, garlic, honey, cow horns/hooves, sunflower, Nsukka Yellow Pepper, sesame, Gum Arabic and Tumeric, as they note that farmers need to understand the elements needed for the export of their produce in order to make good revenue from the venture
Source: Punch Newspaper