By Stephen Ubanna
Nigeria appears to have lost the export trade market in the West African sub-region to Ghana and Coted’Ivoire. President Muhammadu Buhari had put in place some incentives to encourage Nigeria farmers to produce for export.
A s a prelude to ensure that Nigeria farmers export quality agricultural products, the Federal Inspection Services, FIS, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture , National Agency for Food and Drug AAdministration, NAFDAC, an agency of ministry of Health and Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC, were forced to go back to the drawing board to prepare a soft landing for the Nigeria agricultural products exporters.
Given Buhari’s effort to diversify the country’s economy and take over the export trade in the West African sub-region, NAFDAC became more strict in issuing export Certificates based on the quality of the product. I t was learnt that over 60 warehouses were registered to warehouse approved agricultural products for export.
Moreso, the President was said to have approved the cancellation of duty on agricultural products for export and reduced to zero , duty on imported agricultural machineries as part of efforts to ensure that Nigerians control the West African sub-region export trade.
Some of the items on the export list were groundnut,palm oil, Seseme seed, melon seed, beans , Cocoa, Coal, Palm kernel, yam , palm kernel cake, dried fish among others. An Audu Ogbe, the minister of Agriculture overseeing the export of the Agricultural products had one thing in mind that ”export trade especially Commodities , are operated at an international level” and there Nigerians must excel. But the fear in both official and unofficial circles was that Nigeria exporters of Commodities such as Cocoa and palm kernel could be uncompetitive and priced out of the market because of poor logistics compared with other exporters in the region.
The Port Terminal Operators, PTOL who ought to be smiling to bank with the supposed boom in the export trade are no longer finding it funny. They lamented that Nigeria had lost the export business to the ports of Teme, Ghana and Abidjan, Coted’Ivoire in the last two years which was blamed on logistic discharge., warehousing and loading of the Commodity. They maintained that Nigeria exporter could not compete in the international market because of the high cost of handling the Commodity in Nigeria ports and lack of warehousing and automated method of loading.
A senior Customs official disclosed that in Ghan and Cotd’Ivoire, the cost of handling a palm kernel cake vessel of Gross Registered Tonnage, GRT, of 2,861, Length Over All (LOA) of 97, Cargoes:2727.5m/t is $23.64 pertonne covering stevedoring, trimming, haulage, warehousing and shifting from the warehouse to the shipside.
The officer disclosed that in Nigeria, exporters pay as much $30-$35 per tonne for the same services. It was learnt that in Ghana , it takes three days with two hooks to load 2,277m/t of palm kernel cake while in Nigeria, it takes seven to 10 days excluding waiting time for the ship to berth.
The PTOL, had , therefore suggested that the systems and logistics of doing business in Nigeria ports should be critically reviews for improvement to reduce cost of shipment and make the country’s exporters of agricultural products competitive.. The feared that the ”high costs coupled with other factors could make Nigeria exporters of palm kernel cake and other commodities to lose the market permanently to Ghana and other countries in the West African sub-region.
EThe Association is worried at what is happening at the Nigeria export market. It cautioned against the craze by Nigerians to rush into the import business. PTOLwarned that a country that a country that does not export but imports because of revenue earnings is doomed to suffer economically and not make progress.
indeed, for Nigeria to fully enter into the export trade, Kemi Adeosun, minister of Finance , must do everything within her powers to ensure that the government de-empasise on imports. Admitted that the government is making good money from duties on imports but it is at the detriment of the country’s econmic growth, Eugene Nweke, a Lagos based clearing agent and former President of National Associationof Government Approved Freight Forwarders had said.