By Foster Obi
While the Nigerian government preaches diversification to boost the economy, investigation however show that those involved in non-oil exports are not finding things easy. Problems encountered by operators in this sector range from inadequate and decaying infrastructures, financing constraints, inefficient implementation of export incentives and support programmes, over regulation of the non-oil export sector, underdeveloped regional and sub-regional markets, policy instability, capital flight marketing and pricing problems.
Experts say that constraints to the marketing of Nigeria’s agricultural produce are closely related to the issue of poor infrastructure and inefficient marketing arrangement.
They argue that the small-scale farmer has poor market arrangement for his farm produce due to largely poor infrastructure, poor communication network and low access to logistic and inputs support.
Also the absence of rural feeder roads hinders produce evacuation from collection points and adds huge transportation costs. “Lack of warehouse and other forms of storage facilities result in hung post harvest losses which for the small scale farmers are conservatively estimated at between 20-40 per cent of total output for tree crops and as a high as 80 per cent for fruits and other perishables”, they said, arguing that these losses are among the highest in the world.
The situation is worsened by the response of the European Union to produce from Nigeria. Stakeholders in the sector recently lamented that the rejection of some of Nigeria’s exported food items by the EU is not only detrimental to the agricultural sector, but is also counterproductive to the economy.
According to them, plans to make the agricultural sector a major revenue earner for the country may suffer a setback if foreign countries continue to reject produce from the industry.
This declaration was made at an international symposium on mycotoxins in nuts, dried fruits and cereals, organised by the International Society for Horticultural Science in collaboration with the Raw Materials Research and Development Council in Abuja, the nations capital.
The symposium, with the theme: ‘Minimising mycotoxin contamination in food and feeds,’ had over 140 national and international participants from the academia, industries, research institutions, and farmers’ associations. Participants at the event noted that Nigerian agricultural export produce was facing some level of rejection internationally.
According to them, the development may lead to poor revenue generation and may reduce the sector’s contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product if not addressed quickly.
The fears expressed by these stakeholders were worsened by the hard stance of the EU on the ban slammed on Nigeria. While Nigerians were looking forward to getting the issue resolved, the Coordinating Director, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr Vincent Isegbe, said recently the EU has extended its ban on importation of dried beans from Nigeria by three years.
Ishegbe lamented that the extension came when the federal government and its relevant agencies were working to ensure that the June dateline earlier given by the Union to lift the ban was met. This however was not to be.
The EU banned importation of Nigeria’s dried beans in June 2015 on the ground that the produce contained high level of pesticide considered dangerous to human health.
The EU accused Nigeria of not doing enough to lift the ban during the period of suspension.
“The continued presence of dichlorvos (pesticide) in dried beans imported from Nigeria and maximum residue levels of pesticides shows that compliance with food law requirement as regards pesticide residual cannot be achieved in the short term,” Isegbe said, reading from an EU journal.
“The duration of the importation prohibition should, therefore, be extended for an additional period of three years to allow Nigeria implement the appropriate risk-management measure and provide required guarantees.”
He said that the extension should serve as an opportunity for stakeholders to correct the mistake.
Isegbe called for the sensitisation of stakeholders, especially farmers, on corrective measures to avoid such future embarrassment.
Meanwhile the federal government has expressed its preparedness to tackle impediments confronting the export sector of the nation’s economy.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who gave the assurance when members of the Organised Private Sector Exporters Association met with him in his office and enumerated some challenges confronting Nigerian exporters, said the present administration would address exporters’ plight.
“We understand all issues your association has raised, like difficulties in securing foreign exchange, decline in Nigerian export, inadequate export incentive and export grant. aGovernment is working towards reviewing our economy and business environment, we will soon provide a clear and properly coordinated policies that will increase local production of goods, especially Nigerian exports goods.
“Importantly, your association as non-oil sector is an economic diversification vital pillar fully required by this administration and must be fully supported,” a statement issued by the Director (Information), Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Charles Dafe, said.
Udoma also explained that the 2016 budget is structured to have 30 per cent capital allocation for Nigerian infrastructural growth such are budgetary component aspects that will grow the nation’s economy and promote export.
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