The Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC, Mr Segun Awolowo, has canvassed deeper economic diversification initiative to save Nigeria the economic shocks of unstable crude oil prices.
Awolowo made the position known Monday in a keynote address at a one-day Export Capacity Building Workshop with the theme “Developing Soya bean Value-chain for Export” held in Makurdi.
Represented by Mr. Matthew Emmanuel, the Chief Trade Promotion Officer of NEPC, he said the call became necessary because “oil has contributed substantially to Nigeria’s revenue since its discovery in 1956 and more especially, since 1970 when its price was on the upward trend; yet oil receipts and their management have, over time, challenged Nigerian governance to the core.
“Therefore, deeper economic diversification initiative is an urgent necessity to undertake structural transformation, buffer the domestic economy from externally transmitted shocks and accelerate growth accompanied by job and wealth creation.
“The Nigerian Export Promotion Council is already at the vanguard of this new vision. The Zero–Oil Plan of the NEPC, which forms the integral part of the Federal Government Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, envisages building a strong and vibrant economy that is sustained by non-oil products.
“Through this initiative, the NEPC carefully selected strategic products for aggressive development to replace crude oil exports and boost foreign earnings for Nigeria. It is gratifying to inform you that one of the selected products is soya beans.
“Soya is one of Nigeria’s most fascinating and versatile edible plants, widely consumed in different forms across the world for food at homes, animal feed and for other industrial purposes.
“Some of the products made from soya beans across the world include cereal, cooking oil, chocolate, hot dogs, candy, baby food, flour, soup, ice cream, vitamins, cookies, printing inks, soap, shampoo, fabric softener, paints, plastics, cosmetics, and pet food. Some other uses for soya beans that scientists have discovered are biodiesel fuel, soybean crayons, soya ink, and building materials.
“The global production of Soya beans was 341.4 million tons (USDA 2018), Nigeria contributed about 730,000 tons to global production. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade Development/ International Trade Centre, UNCTAD/ITC statistics, the world export of soya bean was 152.2 million tons valued at USD 59.2 million in 2018.
“This was largely accounted for by the top five leading exporting countries: Brazil, USA, Paraguay, Canada and Argentina; while Nigeria occupied 21st position with a total export of 42,959 tons, valued at USD 16,754.
“Nigeria is known as the largest consumer of soya beans in sub-Sahara Africa followed by Uganda.
“Nigeria is also famous in the production of Soya bean. The product is cultivated across the country; especially in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Oyo, Jigawa, Borno, Bauchi, Sokoto, Taraba and the FCT.
“However, the country has an insignificant trade volume in the global trade of soya bean products. For Nigeria to leverage on her natural advantages in soya beans production, and also to play a key and critical roles in the global market, there must be Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and massive investment in the sub-sector to stimulate production to satisfy the growing demand of soya bean products locally and internationally.
“Good Agricultural Practice is the whole gamut of activities in the product value-chain, which include general farm operations (inputs, worker health and hygiene etc), Field harvesting, processing and field packing activities, storage and transportation, Traceability and so on.
“I wish to assure you that the Council will continue to work with critical stakeholders and traditional partners, through capacity building programmes and other strategic interventions/ initiatives, to ensure that our shared quest for economic diversification; which is necessary for a vibrant and sustainable economy is achieved.”
In his speech, the Trade Advisor/Head, NEPC Makurdi Export Assistance Officer, Mr Enani Ben Egon said the programme was designed with the primary objective of improving farmers’ adherence to good agricultural practices (GAP), to address post-harvest losses, market access, yield and quality improvement.
Egon said “Nigeria is the largest producer of soybean in sub-Saharan Africa, and Benue state is the major producing cluster for soybean in the country, producing over 65 per cent of the Nation’s output.
“Soybean plays a significant role in the socio-economic lives of the people it is one of the products that holds the greatest potential for export growth in the state, especially if value addition is adopted by the processors and farmers adopt good practices.
“However, the rural dwellers lack the requisite knowledge in soya bean best practices for production, hence the need for the continued development of their production practices. More so, production hasn’t been attained at full capacity.
“This is largely attributed to poor pre and post-harvest handling methods of the crop by farmers.
“It is interesting to further note that soya beans are a category “A” product under the Nigerian Export Promotion Council Zero-Oil plan initiative. The plan identified 11 quick-win products to be developed to 21 high-value markets. More so, soya bean has been selected as the priority product for Benue state under the one-state one product programme of the NEPC.
“This workshop is one of the components of activities lined up by the NEPC Smart office in Makurdi covering Benue and Nasarawa states to address key gaps faced by exporters namely; Market access, Access to finance, Quantity and standards compliance with importing countries requirements.
“We call on Development partners present in the state, the Benue State Government through its various agencies, industry/business associations to collaborate with the NEPC to address this gaps and extend support to all stakeholders so that farmers and processors will have value for their produce in domestic and export markets,” he added.
Declaring the workshop open earlier, Benue state Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Timothy Ijir, who was represented by his Director Research, Planning and Statistics, Mr Lucky Zobo said the workshop was timely as it would expose farmers and stakeholders to the benefits inherent in soya bean production.
On his part, the Commissioner of Industry, Trade and Investment Mr Merga Kachina represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Mrs Helen Agwe said the state government would sustain its support to soya bean farmers to boost the source of livelihood of the people and the economy of the state.