Why repositioning agriculture sector is vital — Experts
The Federal Government has been urged to enforce standards and measurements in the agricultural sector, review the trade policies and improve post harvest handling capacity, to fully reposition the sector.
Experts and other stakeholders in the sector, who gave this advice, also stressed the need for the Federal Government to do a long-term review of the sector and develop institutions and processes that would continue to foster increase yield, higher output quality and more efficient process.
They noted that though production has increased but it doesn’t meet standards, as standards require enforcement, which must be done by the private and the public sectors.
Managing Director, Green Sahara Farms, Suleman Dikwa, who described food as the most important need of humans, lamented that while the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) regulates processed foods, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) regulates manufactured equipment, but no specific agency to regulate and protect food produced in the country, in terms of standard and measurement.
“That is why you will find out that people will rather take their goods to Ghana or Cote d’Ivore for export where there is enforcement and measurements. Exporters even earn more there.”
He stressed that the most important thing government must do is to enforce standards and measurements, adding that when this is done, both the international and local markets will be comfortable to Nigerian agro commodities because of the existence of a body preferably led by the private sector that enforce standards and measurements.
The Chief Executive Officer, Afex Commodities Exchange, Ayodeji Balogun, who noted that most of the country’s commodities exchange crops are tree crops that takes longer years to grow, said for government to reposition the cocoa sector for instance, it must begin aggressive planting and seed multiplication now before they can reap the benefits in 10 years to come.
He also stressed the need for a robust plan to put in place research and development for improved varieties and means through which farmers can access the new varieties for cultivation.
Lamenting lack of post handling capacities in the country, Dikwa said across the country farmers still dry goods on the roadsides due to lack of post harvest handling capacity, in terms of primary processing and storage.
He said if the country concentrates more on eliminating post harvest losses, there would be 40 per cent increase in revenue due to farmers and the system.
“Investment must focus on primary processing, secondary processing for raw materials, storage and handling, if this is done it becomes more viable and more competitive.”
Dikwa underscored the huge demand for Genetically Modified crops internationally, which the country has comparative advantage in. “For instance, we import GMO soya beans and at the same time people still export our non- GMO, so we need to look into what we have comparative advantage.
“For instance, we are number one in beans and pulses production, we are supposed to fix that value chain. Also, in cashew we can be number one, we can choose our things strategically and our foreign policy must be focused on negotiation, our trade policy should be such that “we are number one in this, we can supply you this and buy this from you. When there is a focused negotiation in terms of goods that we have competitive advantage in, that would be our biggest success.
“Right now, we are losing a lot because our goods are exported to other countries but their certificates of origin carries the names of other neighboring countries and by so doing exporters earn additional $50 to $100 and by the time the goods are exported to Turkey and it gets to Europe you gain additional $1,000.”
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