From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has assured that as the country formally begins export of its first consignment of certified yams to the United Kingdom (UK) and United States of America (USA), today, it will not lead to famine in Nigeria.
Government also gave assurances that the export is part of efforts aimed at reclaiming Nigeria’s share of agricultural export market and diversifying the economy and added that, with improved yam seedling and increased production, export would lead to economic opportunity and not scarcity.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said this at the post-Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
Ogbeh said Osinbajo would, today, flag-off export of yams to the United Kingdom.
The minister also disclosed that the country is in the process of supplying 130,000 tonnes of cashew nuts per annum, at a total value of $7 billion.
To this end, the country will establish six cashew processing factories in Enugu, Imo, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Oyo states, known as the Cashew Belt States.
Nigeria lost its share of the agricultural export market for decades, due to poor quality control and subsequent rejection in foreign markets. Several efforts made in the past to address the national embarrassment, yielded little or no result, until recently, when the federal government took steps to address the situation.
Ogbeh, who spoke more on yam exports, said two containers of the product was exported to the US a week ago and that government is exploring affordable ways of storing and processing yam products so that Nigeria can gain more from the trade.
“We informed the council that, last week, we completed arrangements for the first, formal export of Nigerian yams to the UK. Some people have asked whether by exporting yams we are not going to subject Nigeria to hunger and I informed council that it will not certainly not rise. You will remember in February or March, this year, some of you asked the same question, is Nigeria going to face famine? And I said it cannot happen. “Apart from the crisis in the North East, we definitely are not short of food. Although prices are high in some areas, we are not short of food.
“Today, we shall flag off this export in three container loads, containing 72 tonnes of Nigerian yams. Two containers went out in February, one arrived in New York on June 16. This is important because for those of you who travel and many Nigerians out there, you go to shops where they sell African foods and you never see anything from Nigeria, it is mostly called Ghana yams.
“Now, we account for 61per cent of the total output of yams in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the rest is shared between some countries in West Africa and the West Indies.
“For us to go abroad and not find Nigerian yams in the market, it is an embarrassment because Ghana is targeting $4 billion of yams in the next three years and if they can do that, we, who are the masters of yam production, have no business lagging behind,” Ogbeh said.