Maritime

Nigeria rides on agricultural produce, solid minerals to drive non-oil export

by Uzoamaka Anagor-Ewuzie

May 31, 2017 | 12:45 am
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The volume of frozen shrimps and prawns, sesame seed, cashew, ginger and soya beans including solid minerals going out of the nation’s seaports as non-oil export has increased significantly in recent time, BusinessDay has learnt.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS’s) Trade Intensity Index Report for the quarter three of 2016, export of frozen shrimps and prawns for the period of July to September were worth over N5 billion; sesame seed export was worth over N4.8 billion; income from cashew export exceeded N2 billion; soya beans yielded over N4 billion while ginger contributed over $30 million in export revenue.

“We are already recording increase in export of agricultural produce,” said Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in a forum in Lagos recently.

She observed that due to the abundant of mineral and agricultural resources in most regions of Nigeria and the desire of the Federal Government to diversify the economy, “there is need to adequately explore the port sector to boost economic development in Nigeria.”

Stating that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari has identified agriculture and solid minerals as major economic drivers, Usman noted that the port plays a pivotal role in the movement of these produce and minerals to different countries of the world.

For the port to effectively play its role, the NPA boss said the Authority has in February this year mandated all terminal operators and shipping companies to set up fast-track desks for export of solid minerals and agricultural produce. “We have commenced the process of reviewing existing export procedures to ensure efficiency.”

She pointed to the need for Nigeria to have an efficient rail system for the movement of agricultural produce and solid mineral from the locations of production, usually hinterlands to the seaports for timely delivery of export.

Usman further disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Transportation has embarked on a $2 billion railway concession project to be handled by General Electric (GE), which will provide the needed intermodal support for the export trade when completed. “The project will cover about 3,500km (2,200 miles) of existing narrow gauge lines from Lagos to Kano in the north and south Eastern oil hub, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri in the North-East.

“Developing the port is very crucial for realising the lofty development objectives of the Federal Government. Our port infrastructure like the quay walls and aprons would need to be reconstructed and reinforced to make them fit to handle anticipated heavy solid mineral cargo.  For agricultural produce, we would need specialised and refrigerated warehouses etc.  The channels must be constantly dredged and maintained and deep seaports must be developed to address the dynamics in trade and transport demand,” she said.

Usman however observed that improved port infrastructure will bring about improved port activities, which would stimulate economic growth and in turn impact positively on the economy. “I would like to stress that several businesses derive from activities in the ports.  Trade has constantly been one of the crucial pillars of remuneration since prehistoric times.

The port sector, she pointed, is a huge employer of labour and experts say the shipping sector, which is a part of the port system has the potential to generate about 80,000 direct and indirect jobs annually if properly harnessed. She noted that there exist several opportunities inherent in the port business and the NPA is committed to meeting industry expectations in line with the globally standards.

Confirming this, Jonathan Nicole, president, Shippers Association of Lagos State said in an interview with BusinessDay that export business, which is currently receiving needed attention, has been around for quite some time.

“Previously, Nigerians were exporting groundnut, shea butter, cashew nut etc but their business were not as prominent as the import business. Currently, we have factories that produce goods for export and we have made-in-Nigeria beer is one of the best in Europe,” he said.

According to him, farm produce has remained the leading items for export from Nigeria with the majority of the farms in the North, the rate of insecurity in the north also serve as threat to the growth in export volume.

“Every state has its own natural endowment which the state government supposed to develop, a part of which should go to export. In the oil rich Niger-Delta, there should be agro-allied industries and modular factories for producing export goods and feeding local demand. We have these micro factories in the region producing break oil and other by-products of crude oil.

Listing some of Nigeria’s export items, he said Nigeria export cassava, yam, vegetables to Europe and UK using the airport. “In England for instance, you see Nigerian yam and other edible items.

“Some companies manufacture roofing sheets that are being exported to other African countries. Dangote export some of his locally manufactured goods but now he is expanding to other African countries for local content reasons. Some people export precious stones and minerals but it is restricted to only licensed persons.

Uzoamaka Anagor-Ewuzie

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by Uzoamaka Anagor-Ewuzie

May 31, 2017 | 12:45 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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