Ugo Aliogo and Gloria Ajuma
The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh yesterday expressed the federal government’s desire to address the foreign exchange (forex) challenges faced by exporters, disclosing that the ministry is in talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) concerning the issue.
Audu who spoke at the FirstBank of Nigeria Expo in Lagos tagged: ‘Re-inventing Agriculture for Sustainable National Development,’ noted that it does not augur well for exporters if they cannot export at the official rate.
He expressed confidence that once the issue is addressed, exporters would be able to repatriate their earnings and not lose money.
“We are planning a meeting between the CBN, the Ministry, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and the Ministry of Finance in order to deal with some of these challenges we face especially as it affects smuggled goods that come into the country and how they damage our local efforts.
There is need for us to work to attain self-sufficiency in food production,” the minister explained.
Furthermore, the minister revealed that the federal would soon embark on large-scale production of crops such as cocoa and Shea butter, especially in states that have comparative advantage.
He added: “We are also looking at the expansion of coconut. The water from coconut has a natural source of sweetening. Coconut oil is expensive one litre today is N7, 000. A coconut shell is a very expensive export item which can be used to produce activated carbon heavily used in industries just like palm products are very valuable and they are strong export items. Last year, we shipped $6,000 worth of raw cashew to Vietnam.
“We have decided that in two years, we shall not export raw cashew nuts we shall begin to roast it and export because from 3tonnes of raw cashew we produce one tonne of roast cashew which sells in Vietnam for $10,000. We need financial support. We are the only country in the world that the interest rate for agriculture sector is still high.”
He said policy summersault by successive government was one of the factors that hindered the attainment of self-sufficiency in food production by the country, lamenting that Nigeria had become highly dependent on food imports.
Earlier, the Managing Director of FBN, Adesola Adeduntan, said the bank was positioned to build alliances with agro-producers, processors and storage companies to ensure improvement in the agricultural sector.