By Glory Monday
The just concluded National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD) provided platform for states and the Federal Government including the private sector to deliberate on issues concerning the agricultural sector, formulate, adopt policies and strategies to move the sector forward.
The era when the government has shown commitment towards improving agricultural export which is targeted at earning foreign exchange, improving the sector and above all diversifying the economy from oil to non oil export.
This annual meeting became pertinent as stakeholders both from the private and public sector shared their views and, brought their strategies and policy frameworks for consideration and adoption.
The Nigerian Agriculture Quarantine Service (NAQS) which is in charge of ensuring that agricultural products in the country are safely exported to their destinations without any form rejection, through ensuring that the international best practices are followed by prospective exporters.
The NAQS which is a pivotal government agency in the recent past has played significant role in the exportation of vegetables, Hibiscus and other agricultural products which earned farmers and exporters forex.
At this year’s meeting, the Director General of NAQS, Dr Vincent Isegbe said the Service aimed at drawing the attention of the the public and stakeholders on the need to collaborate and ensure that export standards were followed.
“The National Council of Agriculture and Rural Development is where policies are taken for implementation, so all of us are here, we have memos we have written in defense of all the things we are doing and showcase Agriculture and take it to next level, so for the Nigerian Agriculture Quarantine Service.
“We are here in furtherance of our mandate to ensure that we preparing more commodities for export and we draw the attention of the general public and stakeholders to the need to follow the export standards and ensure they meet all the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) protocols of the World Trade Organization (WTO) so that when we export we won’t have issues of rejection, that why we are he to collaborate with other agencies of government, the private sectors and the individuals with whom we work with to ensure that there is seamless agricultural export”, Isegbe said.
The issue of multiple taxation on the highway has been an issue both the state governments and the Federal Government have been meeting to see how they could develop a harmonized tax system.
Multiple taxation slows down exportation processes, as products for export are been delayed on the highway at various checkpoints for inspection and taxation, thereby exposing the products to some unhygienic practices which could contaminate them (agricultural products).
Dr Isegbe expressed hope that the issue of multiple taxation on the highway would be resolved at the Council. He said though some states have addressed the issue, but some other states are still generating revenue from tax on agricultural products.
“The issue of multiple taxation on the roads have been on the top burner we have discussed, we have written memos to almost all the state governments, the Minister of Agriculture has written letters individually to state governments. There is even the Inspector General of the Police Committee on containing cattle rustling that has to do with the seamless movement if animals, and in that Committee we do the review of the charges that are due to be paid for quarantine services and others.
“Though we have a major challenge with some state governments, they have commissioned consultants, and we say those consultants are not supposed to be on the federal highway, the consultants can operate on any state road of local government road within the state, but on the highway, the law does not permit that, and the joint tax board are aware of that, individual state governments are aware.
“So, it is something that we are collaborating with States, some are cooperating, some are yet to fully cooperate, that’s where we are but we are making major progress”, he added.
The Commissioner of Agriculture, Abia State, Chinedum Elechi said the state presented some memoranda at the technical session of the meeting in the areas of oil palm, cashew and rice, and hoping that the Council would adopt them.
He said the state which has comparative advantage on oil palm production recently planted 2 million tenurial seedlings which would be due for harvest in few months time.
“The most important assets we have in Abia State is the soil, we have a wonderful arable land that grows crop all year round and we have many crops of good comparative advantage, palm oil can grow wide, we grow cassava, rice, cashew, Ginger and others, so the opportunities are endless and limitless, Abia State is an agricultural friendly environment, that is why this present administration made agriculture one of the pillars of development.
“At the technical session, Abia State presented memoranda in the areas of oil palm, cashew and cassava, and the way the technical session runs is that some memoranda gets rejected at the technical sessions, so our three proposals in the area of oil palm, cassava and cashew scaled through successfully.
“In the area of palm oil which we have comparative advantage, having started the tenurial programmed where we already planted 2 million tenurial palm seedling, in the next few months, the harvest season will set in, so what Abia State is likely going to experience is a gloat, the main thing we are asking from those area is assistance for us to build a modern oil mill to help what we already have on ground come harvest season, so the other ones hitch are cashew and cassava is also for the Federal government to assist so that we have the complete value chain from planting to harvesting”, Elechi noted.
Dr Ibrahim Garba Musa who is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Niger State said in the in the meeting, the state would present a memorandum on grazing reserve and hope the Council would adopt it.
He said the state is currently partnering the federal government to develop 23 grazing reserves which covers about 103,000 hectares of land to resettle the nomadic Fulanis in the state, which would in turn put an end to the continued crisis between farmers and herders.
“Niger State is an agrarian State and has comparative advantage in many of crops we are growing in Nigeria and we are a very key stakeholder as such because we are one of the first to even key into the Federal Government program of transformation of agriculture, so we have a lot of issues here, particularly one of the key issues which we have presented a memo on is the issue of development of grazing reserves for the purpose of sedentralizing nomadic Fulanis and herdsmen to reduce the issues of insecurity, farmer/herder conflict, and I think Niger State is already in the front as far as that issue is concerned.
“We have developed our grazing reserve to some level in which we the Federal Government to also key and assist us where we need to forge ahead. We have 23 grazing reserves in Niger State and we hope to develop all of them which amounts to over 103,000 hectares of land and that will go along way in settling the herdsmen in Niger”, Dr Musa said.