By Bennett Oghifo
Industry experts in Lagos recently agreed to join forces to revive the exportation of yam, beans, cocoa and other agricultural produce from Nigeria to the U.S. and other countries.
The experts at an interactive consultative meeting organised by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) at its regional office in Lagos, lamented the ignorance of some Nigerian exporters making other countries to take the credit for produce from Nigeria.
They stressed the need for a synergy and collaboration among the various agencies to increase exports from Nigeria under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA). AGOA is a trade preference programme that provides duty-free treatment to the United States importation of certain products from eligible African countries, which include Nigeria.
Experts were drawn from 19 agencies and they included the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), and Nigerian Expanded Trade and Transport.
Others are, the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Carmine Assayer Ltd, the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Co-operatives, the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, Fidelity Bank, Heritage Bank and Access Bank, among others. Declaring the forum open, NEPC’s South West Regional Co-ordinator, Mr. Babatunde Faleke, said that Nigerian exporters were not utilising the opportunities available to the country to export 6,400 products to the US duty free.
Faleke lamented that yam, cocoa, beans and other produce from Nigeria were usually smuggled from Nigeria to other African countries, before being shipped abroad because of stereotypes that Nigerian agricultural produce goods were not of good quality.
He said that the NEPC, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), had perfected an exportatable specie of yams which was eaten globally but were usually exported from other African countries.
Faleke lamented the high rate of finished leather products from Aba were also finding their way out through Ghana, Senegal and other African countries, thereby transferring Nigeria’s excellence to those countries.
“The approach we have adopted is not getting us anywhere, as 15 years have gone and we (Nigeria) have not benefited so much.
“It is obvious that if we do not export, we would all perish because President Buhari has said that we should behave as if we do not have oil,’’ Faleke said.
He said that the benefits of AGOA were “awesome’’ and that all hands must be on deck to ensure that Nigerians exported under AGOA.
The Head of AGOA Trade Resource Centre, Mr Joseph Ogungbade, identified documentation and procedures as some of challenges confronting exporters.
He added that, the AGOA resource centre was relocated to the NEPC premises in 2015, to stem the problem.
An official of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mrs. Mosunmola Samuel, said that the agency carried out 36 laboratory test parameters required for Nigerian products to be certified OK but lamented the ignorance of exporters.
Samuel said that exporters who carried out such SON tests did not need to cut corners, which he said were responsible for losing the AGOA benefits.
The Deputy Comptroller (Exports), Tin Can Island Ports, Mr Zakari Nasiru, said that an average of 500 containers went out from Nigeria to the Asian countries monthly, without any rejections.
Nasiru, however, noted that there were usually one or two containers rejected from the US and other European countries resulting from problems of moisture, caused by delay of containers at the shipping terminals.
Also, the Controller, Federal Produce Inspection Service, Mr. Ibrahim Mhya, recommended a forum where exporters could be trained so that they could tap into the AGOA benefits.
“We have over 60 registered produce warehouses. The law states that before you export, we have to put it there and we control the moisture content and other parameters, to reduce work at the laboratory,’’ he said.
After extensive deliberations, the stakeholders agreed to host freight forwarders and shipping companies at another forum to sensitise them because delays in shipment usually affected laboratory assessment of the products.
They also agreed to loop agencies to reduce the cumbersome problem of documentation for exporters, to allow Nigeria enjoy the benefits of the extension of the AGOA period.