Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Olusegun Awolowo has stressed the need to prevent the nation’s economy from over-dependence on oil through commitment to export diversification prompted by the the articulation of zero-oil plan.
He stated this on Thursday during a program for the development of Shea butter value chain (phase two) held at Adaka Primary School field, Makurdi the Benue State capital.
Represented by the North-central Regional Coordinator of NEPC, Mr. Christian Elekwa, the NEPC boss said the measurable focus of the Council to attain this objective in phases and within a maximum period of 15 years.
“The main purpose of the initiative is to have an economy that does not depend on a single drop of oil to survive. The realization of this dream is premised on massive production and marketing of pre-qualified and selected products in targeted markets.
“It is our belief that sheanut/Shea butter by its production and export potentials, belongs to this category of quickwin products that should be targeted for intensive development and promotion,” Awolowo stated.
While maintaining that in Nigeria, Benue State is one of the states renowned for the production of sheanut, Awolowo noted that the progamme, therefore, is another testimony of the importance NEPC attaches to the development and diversification of non-oil sector of the economy.
He explained that the programme is directed towards building capacity of relevant stakeholders for an economically viable sheanut/Shea butter export sector in Benue State harping on global best practices to afford them acceptability and competitiveness in international market.
“This capacity building programme, however, is one of the series of product/market development study plans being carried out by the Council to increase awareness level of stakeholders knowledge and skills in order to promote increase and diversify the basket of Nigerian exports trade.
Earlier in a remark, Trade Advisor/Head, NEPC Makurdi Export Assistance Office, Mr. Anani Egon disclosed that the first phase of the program was funded and implemented by the Council in 2016 covering three local government areas of Buruku, Logo and Katsina-Ala.
Egon said it was in order to build on the success achieved in the pilot program that the Makurdi Export assistance office sought and got the approval of the Executive Director to implement the second phase of the project in Otukpo, Makurdi and Okpokwu local government areas of the state.
Highlights of the program included the presentation of different papers on the best practices for the production of quality Shea products as well as a practical demonstration of Shea butter production value chain.
The NEPC also took the farmers on a field trip to the Oracle Shea Butter Limited at the Industrial Layout in Makurdi for a practical demonstration of mechanised Shea butter production line.