Federal Government’s efforts to buoy foreign reserves through improved revenue from non-oil exports, especially agricultural produce would soon come to reality as the first batch of yam export would leave country’s shores for America and Britain June 29.
Nigeria is targeting an annual income of $8 billion from yam exports alone with exporters given specifications including the waxing of yam heads to ease the exports.
Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said this when he received the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme in Abuja Thursday.
The minister had appealed to the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) to reduce inspection charges on export produce to encourage more exporters and enable Nigeria become competitive in the export market.
Ogbeh said the yam export 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; crude oil price slumped to $43.9 per barrel Thursday.
The minister said the flag off of the yam export would be done at the Apapa Port and would be exported in three containers at 24 tonnes each.
According to him, one container will be exported to the United Kingdom while the other two will be taken to the U.S.
“To make yam competitive, we will work on the packages and the right types of trucks to be used for transportation of the produce.
“Oil and gas cannot employ millions of people just like agriculture so, we must work hard to move from oil to earning foreign exchange from agriculture,’’ he said.
The Chairman of the committee, Simon Irtwange, said they were working with the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to commence the process of the export.
Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of yams, accounting for almost 70 percent of the world production. According to a Food and Agricultural Organization report, in 1985, Nigeria produced 18.3 million tonnes of yam from 1.5 million hectares, representing 73.8 percent of total yam production in Africa. Yam production in Nigeria has nearly doubled since 1985, with Nigeria producing 35.017 million metric tonnes with value equivalent of $5.654 billion. However efforts to export the product in commercial quantity as has been done by countries like Ghana and Nigeria have not received the necessary boot.