Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has appealed to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to ensure speedy.evacuation and clearing of agricultural produce for export.
Mr Ogbeh made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He was reacting to current delay in evacuation of cashew nuts worth $300 million for export to Vietnam.
He described the situation as disturbing.
The minister said the development negated the federal government’s desire to make the country an exporting nation.
“It has been brought to our notice that cashew nuts worth 300 million dollars destined for export to Vietnam have been stuck in Lagos.
“And as we know, they are usually locked in containers at high temperatures and if these cashew nuts remain there for too long, they
get spoilt and that is extremely disturbing.
“It has happened before and this also. compromises our desire to become
an exporting nation so we are very concerned.
“We have spoken to the Ports Authority Managing Director and she told
us that she will make every effort to do something about it.
“We are appealing to them, to see what they can do to speedily.evacuate this product,’’ he said.
Mr Ogbeh explained that the long term solution to delay in the export of cashew is to stop the exportation of raw nuts.
“The solution to delay in the export of cashew is to stop the exportation of raw nuts.
We must begin to add value to the commodity by processing it before eventual export,” he said.
According to him, the ministry is working to organise credit for would be processors to enable them to process the cashew so that the business of selling raw nuts would be totally eliminated.
“We are discussing this with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and with any other agency that will support our initiative,” he said.
Corroborating, Tola Faseru, the National President, National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) told NAN that the development would zbecome a disaster if not addressed quickly.
Mr Faseru who commended Mr Ogbeh for responding swiftly to the woes of the exporters said the development is due to the ports inefficiency.
According to him, this is a big problem for cashew exporters because we are in the season now and this portends great danger to us.
“We want to thank the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development who himself is a cashew stakeholder for showing concern.
“It shows his genuineness to ensure that agriculture is taken to the next level. We hope that his concerns will bring a change very quickly if not, there will be disaster.
“The road to the port is so bad to the extent that containers are tripping off on the road.
“For almost one month, trucks are still on their way without entering the ports and they are carrying goods that have tendency to perish as well as deterioration in quality.
“It is so sad and killing and not much fund is being made available to exporters. Thank God for NEXIM Bank that is showing sensitivity to get money to exporters now,’’ he said.
He also appealed NPA to do everything within its power to ensure that the cashew nuts get to their destination without further delay.
Ogbeh, also disclosed that the federal government plans to set up cashew processing plants in four states of the country to add value to the product and create employment, wealth in the country.
He said the move would also reduce the waste of cashew fruits and delay in the export of raw nuts out of the country.
According to him, we are currently wasting an estimated 8 million tonnes of cashew fruits annually.
He said the long term solution to the delay in export and stocking of cashew nuts at the ports is for Nigeria to be an exporter of finished products and not raw materials.
Mr Ogbeh listed the states where the plants would be set up to include Enugu, Benue, Kogi and Oyo.
“The challenge is usually access to credit because a good processing cashew line will cost you about two million dollars to do something like 10 to 20 tonnes a day. We are targeting that to set up at least one plant each in Enugu and Benue, two plants each in Kogi and Oyo state, these are the leading cashew producers now.
“We want to assure the cashew stakeholders that in our next level activities, we intend to stop the export of raw nuts and to process all our cashews here and we hope by the grace of God, to have one or two plants ready before next year.
“We are talking with the Brazilians now. We want to bring in machines from Brazil to process the cashew fruits into juice which has a high content of vitamin c.
“It is very good for the health because we are currently wasting an estimated eight million tonnes of cashew fruits annually, throwing them away,” he said.
Mr Ogbeh added: “That is what the Cashew Association of West Africa told me, in Nigeria alone, that we waste eight million tonnes.
“This is our concern, we are very troubled with this development but later in the year, I will have a meeting with the cashew producers and farmers association to sit down with the CBN and get some help.’’
The minister, who lamented that the country has been major importers of goods and services, said the government is determined to change the trend. (NAN)