We Are Restoring Nigeria’s Place in Agro-Commodities’ Exports
– Chief Audu Ogbeh
On the 29th of this month of June, Nigeria will formally export its first consignment of certified yams to the UK and US. This will mark a milestone in the efforts we are making to bring Nigeria back into reckoning in the agricultural export market which we have lost for decades as a result of poor quality control and subsequent rejection of our agricultural exports. We are bouncing back.
Among a number of initiatives to fast-track these interventions and solidify our base, the federal government has empowered the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS), to make it more responsive to issues of safety and phytosanitary standards in food exports, so that its reports will be acceptable globally. This is to forestall the national embarrassments arising from the rejections of food exports on account of quality deficiency.
The federal government has also put in place a standing committee, technically supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and consisting of membership from critical and relevant agencies of the federal government. The agencies are the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Customs Service, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), among others.
These agencies, working with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) and the Federal Ministry of Finance, have commenced work on an export control plan to target our beans rejection and develop HS codes for other exportable commodities from Nigeria. The development of HS codes for agro commodities, currently in progress, will maximally aid traceability and effectiveness of the single window platform.
The commitment of the Buhari administration to end the embarrassing rejection of Nigerian commodity and produce at the international market is irrevocable. The health of Nigerians is also paramount and the populace needs good quality food as well. There is nothing like Nigerian or local standards, but international standards to which we cannot but adhere in our local handling of food, consumption and export drive. This necessitated the establishment of the high-level standing inter-ministerial technical committee on zero reject of agricultural produce, co-chaired by me and my counterpart in the ministry of industry, trade and investment.
Complementing this arrangement is the presidential committee on ‘Ease of Doing Business,’ which has included the dedication of ports to agro export to further reinforce the checks and balances on export of quality produce from Nigeria, for foreign exchange earnings and to strategically position Nigeria on the global business community. Government is evolving policy frameworks to drastically reduce the rejection of agricultural produce originating from Nigeria while also strengthening the regulatory and inspection authorities to ensure that they live up to their mandates, and to vigorously pursue investments in quality control, standardisation and adherence to international standards and best practices.
I am committed to the realisation of improved exports through expert handling of fresh produce, cold storage and post-harvest loss management geared towards considerable reduction of rejection. The on-going efforts on the ‘conduits of excellence’ is expected to culminate in the development and validation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) at a high level specifically for dried beans, but also adaptable to other commodities.
In a few weeks’ time, my ministry will be flagging off a nationwide advocacy and sensitisation on quality control and standardisation of agro-commodities with support materials to selected small holder farmers. This will span through July and August 2017 in furtherance of our efforts to further develop the “culture of quality” in Nigeria.
Very soon, a major infrastructure of the federal government, which has been idle for decades, will come alive again with productive economic activities. With the presidential order on dedication of Ports for agro-export by the Ease of Doing Business Committee, my ministry has engaged the NPA in maximising the utility of facilities at the Ikorodu terminal for that purpose. Nigerians ready to conform to standards and quality should come forward and avail themselves of the emerging opportunities in the agricultural export market. But they need to align themselves to the reforms that the government is currently spearheading in this sector, for the good of their business and for Nigeria’s pride of place in the global market.
- Chief Audu Ogbeh is Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development