Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government is set to achieve a milestone in the effort to restore Nigeria into the agro-commodities export market by exporting its first consignment of certified yams to the United Kingdom and the United States on June 29.
The feat is governmentâ€™s deliberate attempt to rebound into the export market after several decades of lost grounds arising from poor quality control and subsequent rejection of its agricultural exports.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh disclosed thursday that government had instituted a number of initiatives and interventions that would enable this happen.
He noted that the Presidential Committee on â€˜Ease of Doing Businessâ€™ would complement this arrangement by dedicating ports solely for agro exports and reinforce checks on the quality of produce from the country for foreign exchange earnings.
The ministry has engaged the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) to maximise the utility of facilities at the Ikorodu terminal for that purpose.
Ogbeh said the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) has been empowered to make it more responsive to issues of safety and phytosanitary standards in food exports, so that its reports will be acceptable globally.
According to him, this would forestall the national embarrassments arising from the rejection of food exports on account of quality deficiency.
Government has also set up a standing committee backed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and consisting of membership from critical and relevant agencies of the federal government.
The agencies are 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), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), among others.
They will collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) and the Federal Ministry of Finance, which have commenced work on an export control plan to target beans rejection and develop HS codes for other exportable commodities from Nigeria.
â€œThe commitment of government 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, â€œ Ogbeh said.
He reiterated his commitment to improved exports through expert handling of fresh produce, cold storage and post-harvest loss management, adding the on-going efforts on the â€˜conduits of excellenceâ€™ is expected to culminate in the development and validation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) at a high level specifically for dried beans and other commodities.
He added the ministry will in July-August embark on a nationwide advocacy and sensitisation on quality control and standardisation of agro-commodities by supporting a selected small holder farmers in furtherance of efforts to develop the â€œculture of qualityâ€ in Nigeria.