Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has lashed out at critics of the yam exportation policy and insisted the initiative is for the economic benefit of the nation.
Mr. Ogbeh who spoke to journalists in Abuja on Monday debunked the fear of some Nigerians who believed that the policy would lead to a shortage of yam in the country. According to him, Nigeria is one the highest producers of yam with around 61 percent of world output.
Critics of the policy believe that investment in local processing of yams into finished products is of more economic benefit to the country than exporting the commodity.
But the minister deemed the pessimistic thoughts as “cowardly,” and “sentimental.” He dismissed this suggestion, arguing that yam exportation made more economic sense than processing.
“I have seen attacks on the social media. There are questions all over as to why we are exporting yam when Nigerians are said to be hungry.
“With all due respect, Nigeria accounts for 61 percent of the world output of yam. We have 60 varieties of yam in this country.
“In fact, 30 percent of the yams we produce get rotten because we don’t have facilities to preserve them.”
Referring to the Ghana, Chief Ogbeh claimed the country has been famous for yam exportation – a commodity which they import from Nigeria.
He insisted there has never been any shortage of yam in Nigeria, yet acknowledge that prices might be high toward the end of the season, but new yam is already in the market.
“Why are you so cowardly? Why lay back by not trying anything because of some sentimental reasons that might be raised?
“Analysts are saying that we are supposed to add more value to yam production in order to earn more money, fantastic view.
“But they forget to tell us how much a tuber of yam costs in the USA. Three kilogrammes cost $15, which is equivalent to about N5, 000.
“In London, a carton of yam, this contains three tubers, costs £30, bringing the average cost per tuber to £10.
“At that price, it is more sensible to export to earn more money for our economy.
“Economy is 90 percent common sense. You can’t keep on buying until you are broke. What are you selling?
“Even foreign trade partners came to complain when Nigeria limited its food imports. They complained that we were not buying stock fish from them. I asked them if they were buying anything from us. Let us do some selling as well too.
Minister Ogbeh lamented that “Nigerians should stop the sarcasm and negativity in trying to rubbish every government policy, quoting that “if Ghana can export yam, Nigeria too can.”
He commended the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) for setting guidelines for yam exportation, promising that the standards would be thoroughly adhered to, and urged the commissioners of agriculture in states to keep on educating farmers to use the right yam seedlings to increase their output.