By Oluwafemi Ogunjobi
Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development recently flagged off the Nigeria Yam Export – on the need for Nigeria to begin to earn more foreign exchange by exporting yam and to diversify the economy.
Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbeh says Nigeria over produce food items, and lead to wastage, stressing export as one of the ways the country can guide against wastage and poor preservation capacity, but “this will not cause any hardship,”
The Federal Government of Nigeria has also stated that it is planning to export processed yam products, roasted cashew nuts to Japan, Britain, the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU).
With the government’s target of $8billion foreign exchange annually from yam exports, there seems to be some modicum of seriousness in diversifying the economy and making it work for all.
Nigeria has comparative advantage in the production and export of yam. It has consistently been reckoned with globally as the largest producer of yams, at various times accounting for anything between 60 and 76 per cent of the world production. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Nigeria accounts for 61.7 per cent of the world’s total yam output.
With Nigeria’s new export drive, it has just hit a pot of gold, and ready to take control of the African export market, seemingly controlled by Ghana. Export trades is a catalyst for sustainable economic growth and development of any country’s economy. Exports are sure means for Nigeria to grow the economy, earn foreign exchange, increase the revenue base, consolidate economic diversification, avoid consistent trade deficits and steer the economy out of doldrums.
But we need to be careful. With food shortages in conflict-ravaged zones of the country, and food inflation pushing at 20 percent, the new export drive could hit consumers in a hard way.
Yam, Nigeria’s staple food of over 100 million people, has increased in prices since August 2016, when the economy dived into recession. Nigeria as a yam producer and now and exporter should ensure that export of yam is not at the expense of local consumers.
There is need for sound export promotion policies aimed at providing incentives for local farmers, security, and opportunities that would encourage participation by all in exporting commodities to generate foreign exchange earning and as well as creating individual wealth.
Nigeria also needs to adopt the appropriate trading strategies that tend to pursue sustainable economic growth and market-oriented reforms derived from well-researched export development programs to stimulate future exports.
We should also focus on expanding our export base as this would lead to rapid economic recovery and avert present severe economic crisis; as businesses will undoubtedly position themselves to take advantage of opportunities created through strategic thinking and planning.
Ogunjobi is a Business/financial journalist at Business a.m. a Lagos-based newspaper, an Advocate with Young Voices; Nigeria’s Correspondent to Commonwealth; a Contributor for The Qrius (formerly The Indian Economist). He also writes articles for several Nigerian dailies.