Agro-allied export is another testament to the Government’s unrelenting efforts to ensure Anambra State farmers do not lack market to sell their products.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State is set to change the narrative of little or no foreign exchange earnings from export of agricultural and agro-based produce in Nigeria. He is doing this by expanding the frontiers of diversification to position Anambra as a major agricultural producing and exporting state. This is in addition to creating the enabling environment that would sustain the efforts of government and the people towards this objective. Besides, he has shown capability to address the human capital and policy challenges that have posed a stumbling block to effective diversification among the three tiers of government.
It is not in doubt that the Nigerian government has shown remarkable determination in pursuing diversification to rescue the country from the hostage of a mono-commodity economy. The sub-nationals (the 36 states of the federation) have also queued-in into the development by embarking on various non-oil projects to diversify and boost their revenue base. A major area of focus is agriculture and agro-allied businesses.
The rebasing of the Nigerian economy by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in April 2014 unveiled robust economic potentials in hitherto abandoned or underrated sectors such as agriculture, entertainment and services. Since then, greater attention is paid to alternative revenue generating areas mainly in agriculture through strategic programmes and policy initiatives. The overall objective is to identify sustainable employment opportunities, create jobs, eliminate poverty and boost internally generated revenue (IGR).
Ironically, commensurate infrastructural facilities do not exist at both the federal and state government levels to yield the desired results. Experts maintain that government zeal towards diversification has not produced the desired outcome as appropriate environment has not been created and the right steps taken to actualize these efforts. For instance, the lingering challenge of post-harvest waste across the country and poor export-oriented initiatives remain the Achilles’ heel of policy makers among successive governments with far-reaching effects against the welfare of the people.
It is estimated that Nigeria loses about $750 billion annually to post-harvest waste due to weak value chain which occurs from lack of storage and agro-processing facilities; yet food prices have maintained an upward trend since 2014, according to NBS reports. Efforts to embark on large scale export of agricultural produce has suffered setback in recent times because appropriate measures were not taken to determine the standard of the produce, while poor transportation and storage facilities led to massive depreciation in quality of the exported items.
For instance, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) disclosed recently that Nigerian cashew farmers suffered huge revenue loss as Vietnam, the major consumer country, marked down Nigeria’s cashew from grade 1 to 3. The Chamber attributed the development to poor preservation and prolonged delay at the facilities of Apapa (Lagos) port, which has experienced undue traffic and cargo congestion. The National Agency for Food And Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), revealed that the European Union (EU) rejected 24 exported food products from Nigeria in 2016 for failing to meet standards.
Last January, 72 tonnes of yam exported to the United States through Apapa port in June 2017 were reportedly rejected because they commodity did not meet the prescribed standard. The commodity was found to be rotten upon arrival in the US. Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Audu Ogbe, who described the incident as a national embarrassment, said government would probe into the matter. “The ministry will investigate because the ministry is not an exporter; exporters are private sector people. We will investigate both the company that exported it and asked our quarantine department to check and find out why such a consignment left here’’, angry Ogbeh told Journalists in Abuja.
Obiano’s Masterstroke: Determined to delink Anambra from this lamentable scenario, Obiano launched a unique project for export of agricultural products to the Europe. To this end, the state government in 2016 commenced partnership with ABX World – a Nigerian-based courier/cargo company, in cooperation with Arik Air and Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL), to airfreight agro-allied exports to Europe. With the biting effects of the recession and dwindling oil revenue meting against government budgets, policies and programmes, initiative received accelerated implementation by the Obiano administration.
Giving insight into the state’s agro-allied export scheme, Commissioner for Agriculture, Afam Mbanefo, explained that Obiano’s determination to eliminate poverty through job creation and to boost the state IGR gave fillip to the initiative:
“As a people-oriented administration, Governor Willie Obiano has always sought for ways to create security, create good road network, create night life; these are things that will get people involve, bring in investors and tourism. Now, the agro-allied export is another testament to the Government’s unrelenting efforts to ensure Anambra State farmers do not lack market to sell their products.
“It is very imperative to note that before commencing the exports, the farmers through their cooperative societies received training and certification. In other words, we are confident that these products like pumpkin leaf (Ugu), and others will meet the market standard. As a government we are happy about this new development and we are thankful to other facilitators like ABX World,” Mbanefo told Journalists at a briefing in Lagos.
On their part, the ABX World managing director and chief executive officer (MD/CEO), John Okakpu, an air captain, applauded the initiative and assured that the company with other partners – Arik Air and SAHCOL would ensure that the project recorded a success.
“When we entered into agreement with them, we discovered that they have gone very far. For instance, the State has over 1400 corporative societies and they have gone to the extent of training most of the farmers and also the certification of the corporative societies. The next step was the geo-mapping of the area for easy identification of the farmlands from any part of the world. This is a sure step to curb the incessant rejection of agro-allied produce from Nigeria at the European and the rest of the world markets.
“The EU certified trainers were in Nigeria about three months ago. So, after that training and certification programme, the participants are guaranteed of three years contract to supply agro-allied produce to Europe and can use it for the rest part of the world. He said that ABX World will use its partnerships around the world to make a difference, create agricultural revolution whereby we bring in the off-takers to take agricultural products as long as they meet the international standard and requirements”, Okapu said.
The state government went a step further by initiating the construction of a $150 million export processing facility at Ogidi, in Idemili North local government. The facility, to be called “Ndi-Anambra Export Facility Project”, is designed to be a Global Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) compliant, to provide certification for conditioning and processing of food items meant for export. Okakpu disclosed that GAP is a global quality certification organization which ABX World is the only member from Nigeria presently.
“This Centre will bring the world much closer to Nigeria in this digital age. It will be built with state-of-the-art cutting modern technology. At full operation, it would have cost about US$150m to build. GlobalGAP will certify the center on completion as it will be built under their supervision.
Egbuna writes from Nnewi