Business Hilights
Tracking Nigeria's Headline Business News Online

Rotten exported yams not originally harvested for export

A fresh dimension has emerged on why all the yams recently celebrated and exported to Europe at the Apapa port by the Minister of Agriculture got spoilt on arrival.

Undercover interviews and investigations by our correspondents showed that many of the exported yams were not planned for export at their time of harvest, meaning that the level of care and preservation given to them were not tailored for export but local consumption.

Otherwise, the idea to export yam this year did not start even from the planting season but just after harvesting to score a political point.

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Customs Service, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) were charged with the responsibility of ensuring that yams exported were properly checked and certified.

Further findings showed that the packaging failed international standards for exporting life food items and that was part of the reason why all got damaged.

Other factors included poor storage facilities from the point of harvest to processing and transportation down to the port and warehousing before exports.

In an exclusive interview with a yam farmer in Wukari in Benue State, he averred that “There are different levels of preservation of yam after harvest. Yams that are to be consumed within six months of harvest do not receive similar treatment with yams that will be kept for long to serve the market during farming season.

“Also, the way we preserve yam seedlings for use during the next planting season is also different. So for all the yams to spoil, means that the time for the preservation efficiency to fade was when they were exported.

“If you had seen the yams before the export, common sense will tell you that these yams may not survive the heat and transit challenges because its long they were harvested and were not originally planned or prepared for export,” the farmer revealed.

“The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) have a lot to explain to Nigerians on the shame meted to Nigerians.

Business Hilights recalls that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had flagged off the exportation of the first consignment of the commodity from the Apapa port, Lagos to Europe and the United States on June 29, as part of moves to diversify the country’s oil-dependent economy and earn much-needed foreign exchange.

He said his ministry had been mandated to carry out the investigation to find out what went wrong.

According to him, “I have been mandated to brief on one or two developments in the agricultural sector. One, is a new development about the consignment of yams which was exported from here to the US which according to report we heard today, was found to be of poor quality.

“The ministry will investigate because the ministry is not an exporter; exporters are private sector people. We will investigate both the company that exported it and asked our quarantine department to check and find out why such a consignment left here,’’ he said.

On the assertion that the export of the consignment of yam was done in violation of the Export Prohibition Bill, which prohibits export of items like yam, Ogbeh announced that the National Assembly would soon repeal the law.

With the recent experience, analysts say enough lessons may not have been learnt by the government agencies from the European Union’s three-year ban on the importation of dry beans from Nigeria.

Chief Ogbeh, had said on Friday last week that the nationwide advocacy had become necessary in order to stop further export sanctions and notifications on the country’s agro products from the EU.

He said “Between 2016 and 2017, about 48 notifications were received from the EU on our export goods (nuts and seeds as well as fruits and vegetables) due to aflatoxin and many other contaminants, either biological or chemical”.