The clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the northern part of Nigeria have threatened the output of the country’s cash crops, according to stakeholders.
Our correspondent learnt that the clashes of the past few years took a toll on the production of exportable crops such as tobacco, cassava, oil seed, fruits, nuts and others which are relied on to earn foreign exchange by the government.
Stakeholders have however regretted that oil continues to dominate the export market despite the huge potential in the agricultural commodities sector.
According to the world top export report, the total export volume from Nigeria in 2017 is $40.7bn, and the top 10 items exported during that period include crude oil – $31.9bn; ships and boats – $253.5m; cocoa – $238.1m; oil seeds – $180.9m; fertilizer – $149.8m; tobacco – $102.4m; plastics – $78.1m; fruits and nuts -$76.1m; hides and skin – $67.9m; and rubber -$55.4m.
Apart from crude oil, six of the items exported were agricultural commodities. Stakeholders noted that since there was a huge volume of agricultural produce exported, despite the shortcomings in the sector, was a pointer to the fact that a lot more exportation could be done from the sector under normal circumstances.
“We can do a lot more exportation from the agricultural sector. However, the herdsmen and farmers’ clashes in the North Central region of Nigeria have caused the output in this sector to decline. The impact of this was seen in the recently released Gross Domestic Product report. Nigeria contributed 0.26 per cent of the world trade in 2017 and 9.8 per cent in Africa, coming third after South Africa – 19.5 per cent and Guinea – 13.7 per cent,” the Chairman, Export Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Bamidele Ayemibo, remarked on Wednesday during the LCCI export symposium.
While delivering a presentation during the symposium, which had the theme ‘Prospects and Challenges of Export in Nigeria: The Way Forward’, Ayemibo regretted that the major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria had remained oil and gas, both constituting 96 per cent of the total exports from the country in 2017.
He said, “Despite the huge prospects that the exportation of other products like processed agricultural products and minerals presents, the challenges in the export business has prevented the country from realising the export potential in these other sectors.
He said there was a surge in non-oil exports in the first quarter of the year where the agriculture and manufacturing sectors were reported to have contributed 12 per cent to the total export, adding that the diversification drive of the Federal Government made this feat possible.
He also said Nigerian manufacturers were waking up to the reality of generating their own foreign exchange, through exportation, following the challenges of accessing foreign exchange during the last economic recession.
In his remarks, the President, LCCI, Mr Babatunde Ruwase, said despite the growth recorded in exports in the first and second quarter of the year, some key consumer-facing sectors still exhibited weakness and vulnerability.
He said, “The slow growth is a reflection of the weak purchasing power of consumers, infrastructure deficit, access and cost of credit and the lagged impact of security conditions in the North.
“The Nigerian government and all relevant stakeholders have been working towards diversifying the economy from over dependence on oil.
“Some steps taken by the government to improve the fortune of the non-oil export sector are commendable. However, more still needs to be done.”