If Nigeria can harness agricultural produce for export, it can earn more than what it currently earns from crude oil, immediate past Managing Director of Nahco Free Trade Zone, Mr. Baba Yusuf, has said.
Yusuf said economic diversification was the key to rebuild Nigeria’s economy, noting that increasing quality export of agricultural produce would not only earn Nigeria foreign exchange, but also empower farmers and entrepreneurs economically in rural communities.
He believed what the federal government needed was to sustain the encouragement of the export of these goods through favourable policies, while the country improves its quality standards of productions, processing, storage and other logistics, regulations and our overall global competitiveness. Key also, according to him, is the reduction of the cost of doing business.
“Let me take this from the point of view of the global economic realities and necessities. Hydrocarbons are taking the back seats in driving the global economy and in the next few years, we are going to see more and more the reality of diversification. And looking at diversification as the key driver of the economy, going forward, one would expect that the way to go, is to see how we can influence, trigger and push for outflows and outbound cargo, which is export,” he said.
Yusuf, said significant efforts that had already been made by the federal government in the past three to four years in export of perishable agricultural produce had shown that Nigeria could depend on and it could more than serve as alternative source of foreign exchange.
“You catalyse cargo export for economic development. In the last three to four years that this has been happening we have seen how it has been impacting our economy and more importantly, it has impacted the common man. Go to villages, you will see how the agribusiness is boosting their finances and people are really flourishing and it now brings to reality the need for us to upscale our standardization,” he reasoned.
Yusuf, noted that the major challenge Nigeria had was standardisation, lack of proper storage facilities and lack of proper value addition as well as the right infrastructure.
“These are very critical. The Executive Orders on Ease of Doing Business have been helpful in improving our business processes. But I think more needs to be done to that effect in terms of execution. And we believe that it is not the sole responsibility of government, but rather a collaboration between private and public sector in trying to see how we can boost our export in terms of agribusiness and in terms of local manufacturing industry,” Yusuf added.
“We expect exponential growth of the Airport Free Trade Zones and indeed the Nigerian aviation sector going forward, especially in terms of exports. The opportunities that the airport free trade zones present to international and local businesses are a lot. One of the critical examples of such opportunities is trans-shipment, where major logistic companies or major organisations that do global businesses can use Lagos as their trans-shipment hub for the entire sub-Sahara Africa or for West Africa.
The former chief executive said free trade zones were highly regulated, noting that compliance with regulations of Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) and compliance with Customs regulation was very critical.
“Non-compliance with any of the regulations may lead to the forfeiture of operating license and probably prosecution and therefore compliance is very important,” he added.