Our attention has been drawn to the posting made by one Mr. Femi Yerokun, criticising the recent initiative and the flag-off of the yam export at Ijora, Lagos, last Thursday. Without much ado, Mr. Yerokun, a pharmacist (as he claimed), attempted to circumscribe the whole of federal ministry of agriculture’s initiative of promoting agricultural export, limiting his analysis as he saw fit through his pharmacist’s lens.
Mr. Yerokun’s piece betrayed a clear lack of understanding of the agric minister’s passion that informed the policy to re-launch Nigeria into the world stage in yam export at this point, to be followed by the export of other commodities. Mr. Yerokun also seems to have problem with exportation of agricultural products from Nigeria. His analysis were clearly deficient in logic, particularly given the maths he attempted to buttress his point, which did not add up.
Mr. Yerokun’s categorical statement attempting to establish a positive correlation between yam export and the idea of exporting jobs (or losing revenue) is off-tangent and stands economic logic on its head. Given the trade prospects, he is expected to be looking at the positive contribution, which has greater long term effects on the states’ and federal government’s revenue.
Mr. Yerokun is obviously not the man with the required competence to dismiss the successful launch of yam export, beginning with 72 metric tons. He could have done better by simply drawing attention to the fact that pharmaceutical grade starch is needed and can be produced in Nigeria from yam and cassava. For a good measure, this would have been regarded as complimentary and an attempt to complement government’s practical action toward diversifying Nigeria’s economic base.
We need to be proved wrong that Mr. Yerokun is not acting true to Aesop’s fabled fox that pronounced a grape as sour when he has not tasted it. The mathematics in Mr. Yerokun’s piece did not add up. Nor did it represent realities in the export markets being targeted by the investors that have spent fortune to test the waters before venturing. His arguments’ premises were not well established.
The figures he used for his analysis were not representative of the realities in the markets these exporters are targeting. Those exporting are expected to know better, notwithstanding Yerokun’s allusion to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). That was where his analysis became more problematic.
We cannot be talking about street value or Katsina Ala’s market in a discussion about products that are being subjected to rigorous inspections before export. He was incorrect in his assumption that “72 tonnes of yam would have a street value of N18 million.” Beginning with a rough exchange rate with the dollar at N340, a kilogramme of yam sold for $15 in the US therefore sets a stage for realistic assumptions.
The 72 metric tons of yam consignment readied for export last week was a sign of breakthrough, expected to be sold at about 72,000 (kg) multiplied by $15 and by N340, amounting to N367,200,000, a departure from Yerokun’s pessimistic estimate, whose insight into this subject could not have been anywhere near the collective knowledge of the technical committee members that have been doing the groundwork on this commodity’s export for a considerable while.
Mr. Yerokun may need to take a tutorial from the committee’s chairman, Professor Simon Irtwange, accomplished academic who had to do a year of sabbatical leave in Ghana to discover how Ghana has been doing the business of yam export. Considering the urgent need for Nigeria to diversify its economic portfolio, Mr. Yerokun’s analysis was obviously misplaced and flies in the face of realism.
His opinion in this subject is anything but an expert advice and needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Considering an existing broad policy gap and the need for government’s intervention in positioning Nigeria as a leading African country in the global agricultural value chain, it does not help to take Yerokun’s opinion on the yam export with seriousness for its lack of depth.
The minister of agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, needs rather to be commended for taking a step towards restoring Nigeria’s place in the global food export trade, beginning with an emphasis on quality control and standards. So, except Mr. Yerokun has any other unstated reason for his article, as written, it was misplaced in context and timing as Nigerians really have reasons to rejoice for this new dawn in agricultural and food export.
If Ghana that contributes about 11 per cent of total production of yam could be cornering about 94 per cent of global yam export trade, what is expected of Nigeria that produces between 65 and 75 per cent of the global production figures? It is certainly not a virtue to fold the arms and be watching. Nigeria needs to come onto the stage, and play big! But it is good enough to test the waters with this small consignment of 72 metric tons that looked like unjustified to Yerokun.
Dr. Oyeleye Olukayode
Adviser, Media and Communications
Office of the Hon. Minister