The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has said that arrangements had been concluded for the first container of yams to leave the shores of Nigeria for the European continent on the 29th of June this year.He disclosed this in Abuja during a chat with journalists on the achievements of his Ministry since the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government took over power two years ago.
Ogbeh stated that, within the next two years, Nigeria’s agricultural sector will regain its lost glory at the world stage as a major food producer and exporter.
He noted that apart from yam that will soon be added to the list of farm produce Nigeria exports to the rest of the world, the country was doing well in the exportation of vegetables, beans and cowpeas to India, as well as cashew to Vietnam.
The Minister further said that without the support of Nigerians who heeded the call of President Buhari to take agriculture seriously and shift focus away from oil, the giant strides the country was making in the exportation of farm produce would have been impossible.
He said: “In another two years, we will be back on the world stage where every country had recognized and expected Nigeria to live up to the name – Major Food Producer.
“On the 29th of June this year, the first container of yams will be leaving the shores of Nigeria for UK.
“Yes, we have been dealing with vegetables and a lot of other produce already and we will continue to be selling pulses mainly beans and cowpeas to India.
“We will soon be back exporting cocoa again on a large scale, although we are exporting very little now; and cashew nuts to Vietnam which we intend to start processing here very soon.
“The processed cashew nuts will be exported to Wal-Mart and other major supermarkets across the globe.
“We are on our way. It is just about time.
“The beautiful thing is that Nigerians make me proud. In spite of the trauma they have been through, their response to the call by the President to return to agriculture has been absolutely successful – Young and old, civil servants, military men, journalists, everybody is on his way back to agriculture.
“We only have the challenge, now, of giving them what they need, and we will definitely meet that challenge.”
On the exportation of processed food as against raw farm produce, Ogbeh said that Nigeria had all it takes to effectively play in the international processed food market, stressing that most of what Nigerians ate were already processed foods.
He however said that procurement of machineries, stable electricity, and sudden drop in the value of Naira are some of the challenges that need to be surmounted before the country can play effectively in the processed food market globally?
“We have to process what we grow. There are very few things we eat raw especially vegetables and fruits. But rice, sugar, milk, sorghum, millet, cassava – among those items; we are almost there.
“Nigerians may find that difficult to accept now because the prices are so high and that can be explained by the sudden drop in the value of the Naira. Machineries need to be procured. We need to stabilize electricity otherwise the cost of production and processing gets too high.
“Otherwise, there is no question whether Nigeria can or will get there. It is just a matter of time.
“Unfortunately, for agriculture once a country slows down like we did for nearly 30 years, it becomes difficult to restart the engine.
“But for Nigeria, the people are incredible and they are doing it. It took Brazil 30 years and India 50 years to be able to get to where they are now. It won’t take us that long.
“In 10 years, I tell you, people across planet earth who want to respect Nigeria on agriculture will definitely have to do so; because they have no choice. We are on our way.”