The Federal Government says it is strategising to surpass Ghana in the export of yam to Europe and other continents.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said this when he received the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme in Abuja.
Ogbeh said the programme to be flagged off on June 29, would enable the country earn foreign exchange from agricultural produce in order to substitute the oil and gas sector.
According to him, Ghana is exporting yams but we are not, yet we account for 61 per cent of the world yam production.
“This programme has to succeed; we must sell whatever we produce to the world because we are buying too much. We allowed ourselves to be deceived.
“I saw the figures of Ghana’s earning from yam export and their targets for the future and it was quite impressive.
“If Ghana can aim at a few billion dollars a year from yams, there is no reason why Nigeria cannot quadruple that.
“I want this committee to begin to engage team of engineers anywhere in the world. Can we design a plough that can make the yam heap?
“We have to mechanise heap making otherwise, in the next five years, because of our aging farmers, you will find out that we do not have yams again and we will get into fresh troubles,’’ he said.
Accodring to him, the federal government is targeting about eight billion dollars as annual foreign exchange from the exportation of yams to other countries, if its yam export programme succeeds.
Prof. Simon Irtwange, the Chairman of the committee, said that the committee was working with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to train farmers and also improve some yam varieties.
The chairman said the committee had prepared a four-year action plan for the yam value chain programme in the country.
He solicited for better funding for the committee, which was private sector-led, to commence the programme.
“We have standards that we are following and they have to do with pytho-sanitary requirements to meet international standards.
“We have combined the standards of Ghana and Nigeria to make sure our yams are not rejected at the international markets,’’ he said.
Mrs Elizabeth Nwankwo, a yam exporter, representing Oklan Best Ltd, listed some challenges experienced by exporters to include inadequate transportation and lack of quality seedlings.
She explained that inadequate storage facilities also contributed to the rejection of the country’s agricultural produce at the international markets.
Nwankwo expressed optimism that there would be zero rejection of the country’s agricultural produce, if the challenges were tackled.
NAN recalls that the committee was inaugurated in February to facilitate the acquisition of warehouses at the receiving destinations, address markets in Europe and Canada.
It will also sensitise farmers and exporters on required international standards of yam before exportation.
The committee is made up of representatives from the Nigerian Customs Service, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), among others.
The Nigeria yam export programme is aimed at taking yam processing to the next level.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has also called for effective collaboration amongst export processing agencies to ensure efficient, result oriented and 100 per cent acceptance of Nigerian produce at the global markets.
Dr Vincent Iseghe, Coordinating Director of NAQS, made the appeal while addressing newsmen in Abuja on issues affecting the operations of the service.
Iseghe called for a review of the public notice issued by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in its attempt at enforcing the Executive Order No. 001 of 2017.
NAN recalls that the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had on May 18 signed three far-reaching executive orders expected to ease business, fast-track budget submission and promote made in Nigeria products.
The participating agencies include the Nigerian Police Force, Directorate of State Security, Quarantine Services, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nigerian Immigration Services, Nigeria Customs Services and FAAN Aviation Security, among others.
“The public notice by FAAN in an antithesis to the executive order it served and should therefore should be modified especially as it concerns NAQS,” Iseghe said.
He noted that the FAAN policy has restricted NAQS officials at the nation’s international airports to only cargo terminals.
“The Executive Order says; MDAs at the airports shall within 30 days merge their respective departure and arrival interfaces into a single customer interface, without prejudice to necessary backend procedures.
“The order simply implies that all the MDAs should work together to achieve a common goal and not to send officers of the quarantine service away at entrance or departure point at the airports.
“Nigeria is a member of the World Trade Organisation and the NAQS remains very prominent in both arrival and departure of any border inspection point at the seaport and land borders.
“NAQS is to safeguard any agric produce that is entering and leaving the country. That is why government in its wisdom created quarantine service.
“The main function of quarantine service is to prevent the entry of any disease of animals, plants, aquatic resources entry into Nigeria and to ensure food safety,” he said.
Iseghe said: “if the Nigeria Quarantine Service is not properly placed, there is no way we can fulfil our obligation of meeting the international community.
“My appeal is for the authority of FAAN to be aware of this convention and ensure that the NAQS officers are properly placed where we are supposed to be.”
Worldwide, he said, NAQS are present in all the international airport, seaports and land borders.
“Those items reach Saudi Arabia, asides heralding a possible cycle of rejection and bans for Nigerian agricultural products.’’
He therefore appealed to the federal government to allow it return to the country’s airports so as to curb the exportation and importation of unwholesome agricultural products.