‘How Nigeria agro exports can grow to N100b by 2022’

Economy

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Nigerian agro-exports can increase by 2022 if the export sector capitalises on the opportunity offered across Europe and the United States (US).This, however, depends on how the government and the private sector empowers farmers and producers meet safety standards, DANIEL ESSIET reports. Nigeria’S agro-exports have  the potential to grow to N100 billion by 2022 if the export sector capitalises  on the opportunity opened up by overseas buyers. National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said total exports from Nigeria rose to 23.9 per cent year-on-year to N1.7triillion in December last year. Of this, agricultural goods contributed 108.9 per cent, mostly sesamum seeds. However, there are many difficulties to overcome and reach a higher  target  this year. While there  are  still  issues with quality,  the poor ports access roads, Nigerian agro products have not conquered  hard markets such as the US, the EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Attempts to take agricultural exports to Europe and United States are hit by phytosanitary and other Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs). Least developed countries lose an estimated $23 billion per year, equal to about 10 per cent of their exports to the Group of 20 (G20) through failure to comply with non-tariff measures, according to data published by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Non-tariff measures cover a broad range of legitimate and important policy instruments, including measures to protect the health of a country’s citizens and its environments, too. For example, non-tariff measures may limit the use of pesticides in food. Companies in Nigeria that export food and agric-based products are seriously affected by other NTMs, such as import quotas, special licences, export restrictions, export subsidies, technical barriers to trade, and rules of origin. The Institute of Export Operations and Management (IEOM) Executive Secretary, Mr. Ofon Udofia, noted that NTMs have become a principal impediment to international trade and can prove to be a major obstacle to global trade in goods and services as companies struggle to comply with an increasingly complex web of policies and at times opaque technical standards. Such measures, he said, are becoming increasingly widespread, especially measures on the cleanliness and pathogen-free status of food. The European Union (EU)  adopted pesticide restrictions that  threaten shipments to European nations. Countries  within the union also have their standards. Udofia noted that Nigeria faces significant challenges as export of agricultural commodities has been hit on account of quality  issues. In several parts of the country, he said, inadequate infrastructure significantly undercuts export competitiveness. He stressed that the economy needs regulatory reform to boost export competitiveness with efficient, low-cost, reliable transport logistics being central to trade. He said the government; private sector and development partners need to help the country’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to lift their competitiveness and increase their export potential. He urged the government to establish specific agriculture export zones well placed with airports and docks. With this, he said, the government can increase the exports of Nigeria’s farming produce globally. Udofia said it was critical to achieve greater transparency about business practices, regulations and requirements and reduce the domestic barriers to trade, thus promoting the ease of doing business. He said the government should partner with many countries to boost export of agricultural products to these nations as they need to import the large quantity of food products. The Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) President, Dr. Victor Iyama, said foreign regulations or private standards are behind the highest percentage of reported difficulties. He   said some cases described as burdensome by some exporters involve conformity assessments required to show products comply with national regulations or private standards applied in destination markets. He explained that conformity assessments required by trade partners are the main source of burdensome regulations for exporting companies in the agricultural sector, which is to be expected as agriculture-related products tend to be highly regulated for consumer protection and safety. Besides,he  added that most  Nigeria’s leading exports, have a large number of potential competitors in countries such as vietnam and India. For the Centre for Cocoa Development Initiatives Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Robo Adhuze, agricultural products in particular, such as cocoa, sesame and cashew, consumer-driven preferences are becoming more important. These consumption trends demand a high degree of export competitiveness overall, as well as the infrastructure for testing and traceability that Nigeria producers will need to access lucrative niche markets. He  said most export...

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