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Expert worries as Nigeria neglects opportunities to earn FX from agro-export

…Says Nigeria produces close to 60% of world's shea nut

Agriculture was formerly responsible for 93.3 percent of Nigeria’s total foreign exchange earnings, but sadly the nation abandoned agriculture to face crude oil, which brought down the volume of non-oil and agricultural export earnings down to less than 20 percent, Obiora Madu, director general of Multimix Academy, has said.

According to him, Nigeria was once the highest producer of cocoa before crude oil pushed the country away from agriculture, and today, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are doing more than Nigeria in cocoa production.

Madu, who spoke recently in Lagos on the theme, ‘Agro Export: Policy, Practice and Issues,’ as a guest on Maritime TV’s Live Conversations, said there are about seven agricultural produce which Nigerians can tap into to earn foreign exchange especially in the face of dwindling oil revenue.

He listed cocoa, cocoyam, yam, sesame and others as products for an intending agro-exporter in Nigeria, adding that the country produces about 300,000 tons of sesame seed yearly and 240,000 tons of cocoa.

“With an annual production volume of close to 60 percent to 300,000 tons, Nigeria is the largest producer of shea nut in the world today. Shea nut is an agro-export product that is mostly produced in West African region,” he said.

Comparatively, statistics shows that Nigeria produces 54.1 percent of global shea nut while Mali 25.5 percent, Burkina Faso 6.8 percent, Ghana 5.0 percent and Ivory Coast 4.6 percent.

According to him, the government is doing a lot to encourage investment in agriculture, which would likely result to increase in the volume of agricultural produce in the future if Nigerians would harness the inherent opportunities in the business.

On the issuing limiting the growth of export business in Nigeria, Madu, who stated that Nigeria has comparative advantage, worried that the country lacks competitive advantage.

“For example, it is cheaper for a shipper to bring a container from China to Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos, than to move that same container from Tin-Can to Ogba in Ikeja due to the clog in the wheel of the nation’s logistics supply chain. We are not talking about taking the container to the Northern part of the country. If you have your produce coming from the North to Lagos, you would pay through your nose,” he said.

He said the logistics challenge increases cost for most export produces that leave Nigeria to the international market, which at end, limits the nation’s competitiveness.

“Assuming the rail system in Nigeria is efficient and two people buy ginger in the North for export via Lagos seaports. If one person sends his goods via the rail and the other utilised the road, the person who used rail has the competitive advantage because it would cost more to use the roads than using rail,” he explained.

While noting that Nigeria’s national integrity is also very low globally, he said that this fact puts off potential buyers from doing business with Nigerian farmers.

“When you call someone to discuss an export transaction, as soon as you mention that you’re calling from Nigeria, the person would want to check that you’re not fraudulent. This is a big challenge and is why some Nigerians are shipping their goods from Ghana, which in most cases attract higher prices,” he added.

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