Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have appealed to the Federal Government to support farmers in addressing the rejection of Nigeria’s agricultural produce in the international market.
Some of the stakeholders who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria said the problem was giving them great concern as it also affected means of livelihood.
Some of them said the challenges farmers faced when their produce were rejected had physiological and economical implications on them.
The National President, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Mr Adeola Adegoke said about 95 per cent of cocoa beans that were produced for the global market were from smallholder farmers and this would not meet commercial purpose.
Adegoke recalled that in the fifties, cocoa used to be the highest foreign exchange earner in Nigeria and agriculture accounted for about 55 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
“Recent statistics has shown that cocoa gives us the second highest foreign exchange apart from crude oil despite the fact that we are producing 250,000 metric tons.
“But, we are getting this wrong on the basis of our productivity, our average production is 300kg to 350kg per hectare, whereas in Ghana and Ivory Coast the farmers get 800 kg to 1,000kg per hectare.
“We have Ivory Coast now producing 2.5 million metric tons, we have Ghana producing about 1.5 million metric tons, and Nigeria is producing about 250,000 metric tons
“We have less than 10 per cent of commercial farmers in the cocoa farming business,” he said.
According to Adegoke, Nigeria is adjudged to be exporting about 90 per cent of its cocoa beans.
He said this showed the country had a low level of processing and was losing millions of dollars, thereby servicing other nation’s economies.
Adegoke said cocoa farmers had been addressing the challenges in the sub-sector in order for cocoa to meet international standards and generate wealth for Nigeria farmers.
He said majority of their discussion had been focused on the smallholder cocoa farmers because they produced about 95 per cent of cocoa not only in Nigeria, but globally.
The Director General, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr Vincent Isegbe says the quarantine service will continue to maintain plant health, animal health and fish health to meet international standards.
Isegbe said maintaining global standard would also bring about great economic growth.
He said most of the agricultural produce that were rejected by European countries was because the owner and the exporter did not package them to meet international standard.
“Nigeria is blessed with different agricultural produce and we can make money from them when we export them.
“But, there is need to subject the goods to pre-requisite quarantine inspection and certification before dispatch,” Isegbe said.
He asserted that other countries came to Nigeria and buy off agricultural produce such as ginger, garlic, repackage them and export them.
“We want to work with stakeholders along the value chain to ensure that Nigeria’s agricultural produce make it out and this will help us generate money for Nigeria and our farmers,” Isegbe said.
He said most of the medicinal plants Nigeria exported, needed to be grinded and packaged before exporting otherwise they would be rejected.
Isegbe said that the European Union accepted both live and frozen agricultural products provided that they were free from pests and diseases.
He added that NAQS always ensured that all export-bound agricultural produce were properly processed in line with good hygienic practices.
The Minister of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammed Abubakar said there was need to take plant health seriously.
Abubakar said this was because plants were in constant danger of attack by viruses, bacteria, insects among others, saying such would make Nigeria’s crops unacceptable internationally.
“Healthy plants are at the code of food security and our ability to meet our nutritional needs and dietary preferences hinges on the status of our plant health.
“These plant health threats, undermine food security and increase vulnerability of livelihoods dependent on crop value chains. Healthy plants mean a thriving economy,” he said.
Abubakar said the healthier the plant resources were, the more business value Nigeria could generate from crop agriculture and create jobs in the crop value chains.
“One of our challenges in plant health is the uncontrolled use of plant protection products such as the use of Sniper and other lethal chemicals to store food products which is dangerous and deadly,” the Minister said.
He said President Buhari in strengthening plant protection system established NAQS to manage and minimize risks to the agricultural economy, food safety and the environment.
The Minister said enabling NAQS to conduct conventional risk-targeted import inspections and export control measures was key to Nigeria maintaining a good reputation that would allow exportation of plants and plant products.
Dr Bello Dogondaji, the National General Secretary, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria, said the rejection of agriculture export was a sad development.
Dogondaji said the rejection of Nigerian agricultural produce was due to non – conformity to export standards and best practices.
The National President, Association of Yam Farmers, Processors, Marketers, and Exporters, Prof Simon Irtwange, said the rejection was due to high residue of pesticides in farm produce from Nigeria.
Irtwange explained that when the amount of pesticides was too much in the commodity it would be rejected when taken abroad.
Haija Salamatu Garba, founder, Women Farmers Advancement Network prescribed a way to overcome the problem of Nigerian agricultural produce at the international market.
Garba said that to solve the problem, all levels of government must get involved in agriculture, not leaving it to the farmers alone.
“We need the government to provide some of the technologies and certified hybrid seeds that the farmers need, also the government must be able to sanction those not doing the right thing .
“Nigeria is blessed, all we need do is get the right people in place to do the right thing at the right time,” she said.
The Head of Solution Delivery, Commercial Banking, Ecobank Nigeria Ltd., Olusola Afolalu has advised more focused business women to go into partnerships with banks for greater productivity.
Afolalu gave the advice during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
She said that Ecobank recently launched an empowerment programme, “Ellevate”, exclusively for women – focused businesses, tailored to providing feminine support.
“The idea behind, “Ellevate”, is putting the women entrepreneurs out there
in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, because women constitute 43 per cent of the workforce and business world.
“We found out that it is easier to deal with women because they are more disciplined in keeping to agreements, when we give them facilities, they pay back without hassles.
“They are very smart, focused and responsible, we go as far as offering training for women to get them more responsive to modern and larger business tactics.
“It is a fact that when more women are financially independent, the nation faces less risk of set backs because more informed female gender beget greater developed nation,” she said.
According to her, the bank begins by opening the entrepreneurs to the larger market from their little beginnings.
The bank facilitator said that Ecobank also spreads its facilities beyond Nigerian women to countries such as Ghana and Togo, because of its African outlook.
“We open up market for our African women in Nigeria, Ghana, Togo; elevate them; open up wide range of business networking and opportunities.
“We provide training opportunities for loan facilities if necessary, manage their challenges and give them important links.
“Ellevate started this initiative in 2019, during the Covid pandemic and we have currently empowered over 50,000 women.
“To get started, we first identify you as a true woman entrepreneur, then we open up a link with you and begin our interactions,” she told NAN.
She added that the Adire exhibition, facilitated by Ronke Ademiluyi, a fashion entrepreneur, was one of the assisted women entrepreneurship programmes.
She said that all the bank’s involvement with women, it had discovered that women were always focused and had not experienced failure or defaulted so far.
“We act like a bridge, strengthening and linking our women to the right business connections like suppliers, buyers and international links, ” she said.
West African leaders meet in Ghana's capital Accra on Sunday to review sanctions they have imposed on three military-ruled countries in their volatile region.
The heads of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are meeting to assess efforts to finalize timetables and other guarantees to restore civilian rule in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
Mali suffered coups in August 2020 and May 2021, followed by Guinea in September 2021 and Burkina Faso this January.
Fearing contagion in a region notorious for military takeovers, ECOWAS has imposed harsh trade and economic sanctions against Mali, but lesser punishments against Guinea and Burkina Faso.
Dominating the summit will be the review of a month-long attempt to pressure boards to set an early timetable for returning to the barracks.
ECOWAS imposed a trade and financial embargo on Mali in January after its military government revealed a plan to rule for five years.
The measures have severely hit the poor landlocked country, whose economy is already under heavy pressure from a decade-long jihadist insurgency.
After months of bitter talks, Malian authorities on Wednesday approved a plan to hold presidential elections in February 2024.
The vote will be preceded by a referendum on a revised constitution in March 2023 and legislative elections in late 2023.
The ECOWAS mediator in Mali, former Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan, visited the country last week. A member of his entourage told AFP that Mali had made "enormous progress".
Mali's top diplomat, Abdoulaye Diop, said on Friday that recent political developments were moving the country towards lifting sanctions.
But a new electoral law, adopted on June 17, could be a stumbling block in the talks as it allows a military figure to run in presidential elections.
– Guinea's transition is 'unthinkable': Burkina Faso, another Sahelian country caught up in jihadist turmoil, and Guinea have so far only been suspended from the 15-nation bloc's bodies, but could face harsher sanctions.
Burkina Faso's junta has proposed a constitutional referendum in December 2024 and legislative and presidential elections in February 2025.
Visiting Ouagadougou for the second time in a month on Saturday, ECOWAS mediator Mahamadou Issoufou praised the junta's leader, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, and his government for their "openness to dialogue."
The timetable for allowing a return to civilian rule and the status of deposed leader Roch Marc Christian Kabore were also discussed, the former Niger president said.
Political parties allied with Kabore denounced the board's plans on Friday, saying they were not consulted in advance.
The situation appears more complex in Guinea, whose board has rejected an ECOWAS mediator and announced a 36-month transition, a period African Union President and Senegalese President Macky Sall has described as “unthinkable”.
ECOWAS avoided commenting on the sanctions at a June 4 meeting, instead giving itself another month to negotiate.
Guinea has this week led a diplomatic offensive to allay the concerns of regional leaders.
The country's post-coup prime minister, Mohamed Beavogui, met on Saturday with the United Nations special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif.
The government said it wanted to assure its ECOWAS “brothers” of its commitment to a peaceful and inclusive democratic transition.
Guinea's military regime met on Monday with the main political parties, but they have made their participation in the dialogue conditional on the appointment of an ECOWAS mediator.
Pastor Henry Akasili, Executive Director of “A Smarter You Academy’, a non profit organisation, has called on African leaders to implement policies that would create an enabling environment for initiatives capable of motivating the youths.Akasili made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on the sidelines of the launch of the academy on Saturday in Lagos.The academy is powered by Africa for Africa Youth Initiative, also an international non profit organisation.It is a Pan African initiative that is positioned to produce a breed of young minds with renewed inspiration, motivation and a greater future.According to Akasili, the youths are an embodiment of great innovatons and ideas, all rearing to go.He, however, said that lack of motivation and good policies had remained a major hinderance.“When you talk about young people, you look at people with innovation and skilks. Their energy, if well harnessed, could accelerate the much needed nation building as well as change the narrative about Africa as a continent.“Today, we could see them involve in cyber crimes and other negative vices. They have sharp minds and this can be corrected.“I can assure you that if they are guided right and an enabling environment put in place, they will channel these skills to things that will be of great benefits to all.“A major responsibility of all heads of governments in Africa in advancing the course of reeducation of the African youths is to ensure that the right policies are put in place to create that enabling environment for initiatives such at this ‘A Smarter You Academy ‘ to thrive.“Such policies will ensure that regulatory bodies do not prevent or stifle the activities of initiatives such as this one,” he said.The Technical Director of the academy, Mr Ugo Dibia, noted that the academy was the solution to the multifaceted challenges facing the the continent.He said that the challenges facing Africa were not entirely as a result of bad leadership but rather the educational system.According to him, the academy is one of such initiatives put in place by the Africa for Africa Youth initiative to reengineer and retool the youth across the continent.“It is because we saw the gap in our educational system that we decided to come up with this academy.“We want to be able to produce thinkers and not just have people go to school and on graduation, will not know what to do with themselves.“This academy is here to help change that culture, by training the mindset of our youths so that on graduation from school, they will not only be good administrators, but also good producers.“We train them to be effective in the job place and be creative enough to produce and start up businesses of their own. So, that is how we move between entrepreneurial skills and employability skills.“If they chose to work in a company, we teach them how to be effective in that company and if they decide to stay on their own, we also teach them how to be effective business owners and ultimately a global player.“This academy has indeed come to stay and it is the game changer for African challenges,” he stated.He added that the academy was open for registration to undergraduates of universities, graduates of other tertiary institutions, and secondary school students.According to him, the academy is situated in all major cities in Nigeria and Africa.He listed how to start up a business, how to generate business ideas, how to improve on personal character and basic communication skills, as some of the courses that would be run in the academy.Others include Managing Personal Finances, Marketing Skills, Digital Marketing and Website development.“Each course has a different duration, but our goal is that in six months, it will be through with any course chosen by the individual.“We are looking forward to involving or partnering with the Federal Government and other interested stakeholders.“Remember we have over 200 million youth across Africa and so we want to see how these programmes could be inbuilt in the educational curriculum, especially in the universities and other tertiary institutions.“This will go a long way to change the narrative of Africa especially in the area of productivity.“So, we will also be happy if we can get other stakeholders to partner with us too in building more of this academy across Africa, so we can impact more youths,” he stated.Mr Sharpman Olumatin, Country Manager, Africa for Africa Youth Initiative said that the organisation, through its expansion and entrepreneurial programmes, intends to reeducate the African youth and inspire them in finding solutions to the socio-economic and political challenges in Africa.“What we want is for our youth to play active roles in the development of an egalitarian African society, as well as foster Pan Africanism.Mr Fortune Nkweke, Head of Operations, Africa for Africa Youth Initiative said that the organisation had over 80,000 members across 25 countries in the continent.He noted that the organisation was mainly to empower African youths as well as change the stereotype that had been associated with Africa.“This organisation, established in 2018, is to ensure that the story of Africa is told the way it is and not the way some people perceive it to be.“Africa has more virtue interns of the youth population with a lot of them into technology, many others with great innovations, ideas and we do not see them out there.“A lot of them go out to the diaspora because they feel Africa does not provide the enabling environment to thrive.“So, the organisation is creating systems and platforms throughout the various programmes and initiatives that we have, to ensure that every youth in Africa has the mindset to look out on ways to contribute their quota to the development of their respective nations and Africa as a continent,” he stated.NAN reports that over 50 youths from across African countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, were present at the launch of the academy.NewsSourceCredit: NAN
Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, will depart Lagos on Saturday for Accra, Ghana, to represent Nigeria at the 61st Ordinary Session of the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, said the vice-president will stand in for President Muhammadu Buhari at the summit which comes up on Sunday.
The vice-president will join other leaders to deliberate and take decisions on the political, security and humanitarian issues among others regarding the sub-region at the regular ECOWAS summit.
The meeting will also review the situations in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, with regards to restoring democratic rule.
West African leaders have held several sessions since 2020, including emergency meetings, dedicated to finding lasting solutions to the resurgence of coups in parts of the sub-region.
At the summit, the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS will update leaders on political developments in the region and in the Sahel region.
The council will also provide updates on the issues of insecurity, challenges relating to youth unemployment and the impact of diseases and pandemics on social tensions in the region.
On June 4, in Accra, President Buhari joined other ECOWAS leaders to deliberate on the situation in the sub-region, urging more attention to be paid to the victims of unconstitutional change of government
On the sidelines of the summit, Osinbajo will also attend a meeting of the five West African countries involved with The Abidjan – Lagos Corridor Highway Development Project.
The project is a flagship project of the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
The highway connects the capitals of five West African states–Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria and stretches for approximately 1,028 km.
A release from ECOWAS Commission said the objective of this 42 million-dollar project is “to promote cross-border trade.
It also seeks integrate economies within the ECOWAS area, reduce transport costs, stimulate inter-regional trade and strengthen regional integration in West Africa.”
The vice-president will be accompanied on the trip by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Amb. Zubairu Dada and some other members of the Federal Executive Council.
He is expected back in Abuja on Sunday.