Nigeria will on Thursday begin yam exports to the United Kingdom with 72 tons of yams in three containers, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh said.
He said the matter was tabled at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday as a major milestone in the export market and diversification process.
According to the minister, the country would strive to export more yams and other food commodities to other countries to earn more foreign exchange.
“We had cause to inform the council that last week we completed arrangements for the first formal export of Nigerian yams to the United Kingdom.
“I know that we have had reactions from the Nigerian public.
“Some people have asked if that is of any importance; others have asked if by exporting yams we are not going to subject Nigeria to hunger.
“I had to inform council today that that would certainly not arise.
“You would remember about Match or April this year some of you asked the same question: is Nigeria going to face famine? And I said it cannot happen.
“Apart from the crisis in the North East we definitely are not short of food although prices are high in some areas; we are working on that.
“Tomorrow we will flag off this export in three container loads of 72 tons of Nigerian yams.
“Two containers went out in February; one arrived in New York on June 16.’’
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The minister stated that the information is important because everywhere yam was sold around the world as African food, consumers called it Ghana yam.
According to him, Nigeria accounts for 61 per cent of total yam output in the world while the rest is shared between some countries in West Africa and the West Indies.
He said it was an embarrassment not to find Nigerian yams in foreign markets.
He said that the export was significant because as Ghana was targeting $4 billion from yams in the next three or four years Nigeria being the masters in yam business had no business lagging behind.
Ogbeh said most of the yams produced locally were lost to wastage because of poor technologies and preservation.
He, however, said the issue was being addressed by using solar coolers in markets and producing areas to keep the commodity at 14 degrees Celsius to last about two or three years.
Ogbeh said the point was made because of the FG’s diversification, economic recovery and growth adding that the country had to export what was needed by other countries to earn more foreign exchange.
He said labour was the only challenge the country might face, adding that mechanization was introduced to solve the problem.
He noted that a new plough was designed for tractors at the Nigerian Centre for Agriculture Mechanisation, Ilorin, to make yam heaps.
He said with the mechanization in place farmers would see yam cultivation and export as an economic opportunity.
The minister noted that food exports from the country had indeed gone up.
“Food exports have gone up in the last one year by 82 per cent; so they will increase.
“We want to make sure that what we send meets the finest standard in the world market.
“If people chose to use their money to import irregular, unnecessary items government will look into that and apply adequate regulations to rationalize importation.
“We are not banning anything, but if you must import things that are not necessary be prepared to pay the duty on them.
“After the flag off (inauguration) tomorrow we will know the kind of volumes that the European market is looking for.
“We are now testing the market; we find they are accepting the yams; they rejected them before because we didn’t handle them well.
“Then in the next comment I will make to you in about a month or two I will tell you exactly what we expect, both from the U.S. and UK and possibly other parts of the world, including China.’’
Ogbe added that good news was the request for roast cashew nuts by Wallmart, the biggest retail shop in the U.S., worth about 130,000 tons of processed cashew nuts per annum valued at $7 billion.
He said Nigerian cashew was hitherto shipped raw to Vietnam, which processed and exported same to U.S.
According to him, the Federal Government will in 2017 create six cashew processing factories in Enugu, Imo, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Oyo the existing cashew belt.
He said that Nasarawa and Kaduna also grew cashew in quantum adding that the increase was because of the focus on non-oil exports.
He said government was also targeting industrial starch for textile industry and export to China adding that India was also asking for all sorts of beans for their $100 billion beans market.
He said the possibilities in agriculture were limitless