As the present administration intensifies efforts to drive the economy through agriculture, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and the Ministry of Agriculture have proffered ways to transform the sector as a key sector for job creation, food security and foreign exchange earner.
Speaking in his office yesterday when he received the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, who was on a courtesy visit, Audu Ogbe, Minister of Agriculture, lamented that the country had not been able to achieve the full potentials of the sector when compared with its abundant human and natural resources especially in the agriculture and solid mineral sectors.
Towards this end, the Minister announced plans to organize a national Agricultural Summit aimed at engaging the youths to get their buy-in and change the orientation that agriculture was only meant for never-do-well in the society even as he commended the NEPC for articulating a Zero Oil Plan to support the rapid diversification of the Nation’s economy through non-oil exports.
He noted that although there are several inhibitions to achieving a total diversification from oil to non-oil, the Minister was optimistic that the challenges were not insurmountable. However, he maintained that the same advocacy must be carried to the door-steps of the Governors in their respective States in order to make the states self-reliant and increase their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
The factors that would transform the sector, he pointed out, include among others international best practices in agriculture within the entire value-chain in terms of quality and standards, logistics, cultivation of high yielding species, production, mechanisation, processing, good preservation methods, marketing and packaging.
Corroborating the Minister’s position, Awolowo explained that NEPC as part of its strategies to reposition the non-oil export sector adopted: One-State-One-Product Programme, which aims at assisting each State of the Federation to develop and promote a choice exportable product where it has comparative and competitive edge for exports and can do well at international market.
He said the Council also adopted National Strategic Export Products, explaining that in this regards, 13 products in three categories were in focus, including Agro Industrial – Palm Oil, Cocoa, Cashew, Sugar and Rice); Mining related products – Cement, Iron ore/metals, Auto parts/cars, Aluminium and, Oil and Gas Industrial Products – Petroleum products, fertilizer/Urea, Petrochemical and Methanol.
Also, he said the Council developed the Nigerian Diaspora Export Programme, which he said has three major components targeted at Nigerians in diaspora viz: Cuisine beyond borders, establishment of Nigerian Heritage Houses and encouraging the teeming Nigerians in diaspora to invest in the non-oil export sector.
“More recently, we have developed the Zero Oil Plan, in response to this administration’s charge that Nigeria must begin to look for new drivers of the economy. The plan is Nigeria’s strategic effort to build an economy that does not need oil to survive and can serve as a major flagship economic programme for the country,” he added.
Awolowo explained that the plan identifies 11 strategic products\sectors, and 21 countries, for Nigerian goods, to grow non-oil foreign exchange from $2.7 billion today, to $30 billion in five years.