Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe yesterday formally flagged off the export of yam with 72 tonnes of the produce exported to Europe.
Speaking during the flag off of the project at the Lilypond Container Terminal, Ijora, Lagos, Ogbe said he considers the event another giant leap in the country’s quest to grow the agricultural sector towards the diversification of the nation’s revenue base and conservation of foreign exchange by limiting citizen’s appetite for imported food.
“The 72 tonnes is going out in three containers but this is just the beginning; more will follow. There is demand in China, everywhere where Nigerians are and until we stabilise the economy through serious work like this, there will never be peace and stability,” he said.
While emphasizing the need for farmers to ensure quality control, Ogbe appealed to exporters to ensure that their produce meet global standard as Nigeria can no longer afford the embarrassment of product rejection.
He said there is high demand for Nigerian yam once international standards are met; adding that the federal government was working at taking yam production, processing and marketing in Nigeria to the level of that obtains in Ghana.
According to him, Ghana yam export trade employs over one million people with the country currently accounting for 94 percent of the total yam export in West Africa and covering markets in Canada, UK and Europe.
The Minister also assured that the yam export drive would not lead to the product’s scarcity at home.
“I am aware that since we made the announcement that we are going to export yams, Nigerians have begun to express anxiety. I have seen people say we are hungry and you are exporting our yam. Quite frankly, I appreciate the point they are making but the truth is that the yams we export will in no way diminish the quantity at home. Most of the yams we produce rot away.
“New yam will be here in two weeks, the old stock is still there and people in the markets are getting worried but the new yam will come and nobody will touch the old one. We actually overproduce food here,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman assured that the organization would give the necessary support including designating a terminal for export of agric produce to enable the nation succeed in its effort to diversify the economy through agriculture.
Also speaking at the event, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Olusegun Awolowo, expressed appreciation to the technical committee on Nigeria yam Export Product led by Prof. Simon Irtwange for making the event a reality.
He said it is only through agriculture that Nigeria can earn more foreign exchange to bridge the gap created by the fall of oil prices.