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.
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 exporters complain that, it is not possible to ensur equality requirements before exporting. This leads to significant uncertainty on prices and profits because goodsare subject to additional checks in destination markets.
As Nigeria’s export basket diversifies and with renewed interests in newer products in the local markets, Microfinance Association (UK) Country Representative, Mrs Ololade Adesola, said there was need to transform the trade landscape and support greater local value addition.
She said development of the facilities would encourage local farmers to diversify their crops and boost domestic food security.
She said growers must adopt the principles of integrated pest management standards for agro-based products to compete against the European Union and other developed countries.
Mrs Adesola noted that there is potential to develop a range of niche products for both local and export markets.
Added value and food security
More robust agro-processing and primary production are essential if Nigeria is to bolster food security and reduce its import bill, she emphasised.
Adding value and maximising the agriculture sector’s limited resources through targeted investments, she added, will strengthen links in the supply chain for food and develop competitive advantages.
Challenges with private standards
In addition to mandatory official regulations, Adhuze said exporters also indicate difficulties complying with voluntary private standards. He said new standards for importing agricultural products are being set, including sanitary and phytosanitary measures, pesticide residue elimination, cold treatment and pest-free area, which have made products costlier for export destinations.