The rejection of Nigeria’s agro products at the international markets, especially in Europe, is now becoming rampant, despite countless Trade and Bilateral Agreements signed with most of these countries.
This obviously has to do with the inability of the country and her agro-exporters to conform with specific internationally recommended standards, certification and traceability, says Captain John T Okakpu.
Captain Okakpu is the chairman of a 28-member Nigeria Agro Set-Up Committee inaugurated by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI), with a mandate to reinvigorate broad national agricultural activities across the country.
According to PriceWater Coopers (PwC’s) report, between 2016 and 2018, the country’s total agriculture exports was driven by export of sesame seeds, fermented cocoa beans, cashew nuts, ginger, crude palm kernel oil, soya beans, frozen shrimps and prawns, among other commodities.
Cumulatively, the country earned N0.53 trillion from agriculture export between 2016 and 2018.
In contrast, Nigeria’s total agriculture import bill over the same period stood at N2.39 trillion. As a result, the agricultural trade deficit stood at N1.86 trillion. Thus, the country is a net food importer.
Okakpu lamented the believe in some quarters that once a country has a Trade and Bilateral Agreement with another, it guarantees free flow of any agro-products.
In his words: “Yes, such agreements open the doors to free trade between countries for mutual benefits. But there’s a caveat here that ensures that advanced countries will only accept agro products that are traceable with internationally recognized Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certifications/Traceability. A responsible country wouldn’t because trade agreements allow poison or sub-standard products into their country to kill its citizens”.
He argued further that Nigeria has entered into several trade agreements, “but our goods are still being rejected by the same countries we have Bilateral Trade Agreements with. Why? Because our agro-products are not Certified nor traceable”.
Okakpu who doubles as the Managing Director of abx world, said unless the country gets it right, “we will keep chasing shadows traveling all over the world in vain.
“Similarly, such Certifications/Traceability are not established from nothing or by the Government. The main agricultural producers having over the years experienced the real reasons for rejections of their products and taken steps to correct such issues by having internationally acceptable and recognized GAP Certifications will now establish national standards to be adhered to.
“This is where the Government comes in to institutionalize and gazette such standards. Definitely not before, otherwise that will be tantamount to putting the cart before the horse. This is how all countries who are GAP Certified evolved their standards.
“Kenya (Kenya GAP) for instance, has well over two thousand GAP Certified farmers, while Ghana (Ghana GAP) has over one thousand, just to mention a few. Where is Nigeria? Where are we; the certified farmers and their traceable products that pave the way in establishing a GAP standard? We (Nigerians) have not entered the world market yet; our agro products are being rejected left, right and center and we are talking of setting up our own GAP.” Please give me a serious break.
The Committee Chairman recommended that the government, especially State Governments should empower their farmers by supporting and sponsoring them to go for GAP certifications.
“By merely doing so, they will create a very fertile/conducive environment and a sustainably prosperous society; unemployment and crime will take a back seat in Nigeria. I guarantee you that”, he stated.
He however, said that the country needs to diligently follow the process and not always put the cart before the horse and keep going round in a vicious circle.
“Truth and nothing, but the truth! There’s no conspiracy or gang up against Nigeria as a nation by anyone, group or organization. Lobbying for incompetence is nothing but lies and deceit that will yield no results.
“In as much as we (the Organized Private Sector) are proposing and working with the government for the right policies, we all must first of all take the necessary responsibility”, he advised.
He said that it was for this reason the Committee was set up and will resolve everything through the support of stakeholders.
“It’s very necessary for me to note this here: all foreign businesses that import agro-products prefer dealing with the private sector than Government because of the transient and tenure based nature of Government.
“This Group has completely broken that jinx by fusing for mutual benefit the Organized Private Sector, Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies for the sole purpose of agro-export. So, the hitherto gridlock, bureaucracy, duplication of processes and other bottlenecks faced by agro exporters in Nigeria are being resolved. Thus, Nigeria through the efforts of this group will soon be a major agro export hub in Africa”, he said.