Nigeria’s agricultural potentials are huge. But there are nagging issues that must be solved if the nation is determined to harness these ‘agro-economy’ benefits.
In a recent chat, Captain John T Okakpu, 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, bemoaned the continued rejection of Nigeria’s agro products at the international markets, especially in Europe.
While it is now becoming rampant, despite countless Trade and Bilateral Agreements signed with most of these countries, Capt. Okakpu, hinted on the obvious factors responsible for this: “It has to do with the inability of the country and her agro-exporters to conform with specific internationally recommended standards, certification and traceability.
According to this report by Nairametrics, Nigeria’s top 10 agricultural export is estimated to have earned the country about N289.3 billion in one year (April 2019 – March 2020). This is according to data collected from various foreign trade reports, as compiled by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
A cursory look at the data showed that Sesamum seeds and Cocoa remain Nigeria’s biggest agricultural exports, with the two products jointly accounting for over 60% of the entire agricultural exports in the country.
But in recent time, there have been outcries among agro-product exporters over the rejections of their exports at the international markets that deserve urgent attention.
Again, Capt. Okakpu has insights on how to save the country from losing funds, particularly agricultural loans or facilities.
Yes. He advised that government; its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should cease from granting farmers without Good Agricultural Practices (Global GAP) certification/traceability access to loans or grants.
In his words: “Knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in addition to other benefits teach and equip farmers on standard Farming Book Keeping which helps farmers know, track and compare total costs of farm inputs and inflows from sales and in so doing help to maximize their profitability.
“That notwithstanding, knowledge of GAP enables farmers to increase their yields per hectare by employing latest, world class and more efficient farming techniques.
“Similarly, farmers who have Global GAP certifications and trainings are automatically linked to off-takers who buy off their agricultural farm produces right from the farm gate at international market rates thus saving most farmers from losses derived from low sales and prices that ultimately lead to loan defaults.
“Moreover, both the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Trade went a step further by recognizing and partnering with the Nigeria Agro Export Set Up Committee in ensuring that GAP is acquired by all farmers in Nigeria”.
This is paramount to our country now. 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 certifications or standard?
The basic benefit of this patriotic and worthy people’s oriented initiative by Capt. Okakpu, is that eventually when a sizeable number of farmers have acquired GAP certifications, the incidents of toxic loans amongst farmers will be drastically reduced and government’s desire to fully diversify our economy through agriculture will be achieved without a doubt.
It is, therefore, necessary for all relevant Government ministries, Departments and Agencies to key into to this initiative in order to start reaping the benefits of “our untapped, vast agricultural reserves and potentials. This is the foundation of assurance for any form of loan disbursements to farmers”, he said.