Nigeria has lost out in agricultural export markets – Dr. Okonjo Iweala

Nigeria has lost out in agricultural export markets – Dr. Okonjo Iweala

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Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has stated that Nigeria has lost out in agricultural export markets and has become a net importer of food.

She stated this during the inauguration of the $1.2 million programme to improve the export standard of Nigeria’s sesame and cowpea products.

The ex-Minister of Finance stated that although Nigeria’s agriculture sector has the capacity to significantly boost export diversification and create jobs, many of these opportunities are still untapped due to existing obstacles.

  • She said, “We all know the story about Nigeria being a significant exporter of palm kernel, groundnuts, palm oil, cotton and cocoa, but the country has since become a net importer of many of these goods.”
  • “In fact, Nigeria has not only lost out in agricultural export markets, it is a net food importer spending about billions a year for goods, many of which we can also produce here.”
  • “Nigeria used to be a formidable agricultural exporter. Up to the mid-1960s, the country’s share of world agricultural exports was more than one per cent.”
  • “However, agricultural exports collapsed as the economy shifted towards petroleum exploitation, and by the mid-1980s Nigeria’s world market share for agricultural products has dwindled to less than 0.1 per cent,”

Challenges of Nigeria’s agricultural exports

The director-general highlighted that trade-related issues on the supply side are part of the reason for Nigeria’s untapped potential, which the project intends to address.

She noted that Nigeria is the leading producer and consumer of cowpeas globally and a major producer of sesame, exporting to the EU, Türkiye, Japan, South Korea, and other Asian countries.

However, Nigerian exports of cowpeas and sesame have faced increasing rejections in various international markets due to failure to meet the Standard Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) requirements.

Okonjo-Iweala explained that the project’s goal is to enhance the understanding of market access requirements among stakeholders in the sesame and cowpea value chains.

She added that the initiative would focus on improving agricultural practices, including pesticide use, hygiene, harvest and post-harvest processes, and food safety.

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