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Post-COVID-19: Exporter seeks removal of export trade barriers

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A cashew exporter, Mr Godwin Okoh, on Monday urged government to remove barriers to export trade and add value to agricultural produce to revamp the economy in the postCOVID-19 era.

Okoh, who is the Managing Director of 0g2Tech Consulting and Investment Ltd., made the call  while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.

He observed that the halting of many businesses and the dwindling fortunes of crude oil due to the the COVID-19 pandemic demanded broadening of the nation’s economy through processed produce for export.

The exporter, while reacting to the Federal Government’s plan to issue export licenses to exporters to shore-up the nation’s revenue from foreign exchange, said that removal of export trade barriers was more important than issuing of licenses.

NAN reports that the Federal Government had on May 14, ordered the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service to issue produce exporters licenses to facilitate export to attract more foreign exchange.

“It is not about issuing export license; don’t forget that export license is not issued for free and is not  about which agency should issue the license.

“Government should be concerned about the fundamental problems or challenges facing the export business; finance is very key, export is capital intensive and it is a cash-based transaction.

“As an exporter, you travel down to the rural market to source for your goods with no basic infrastructure and no good network that will aid electronic transfer.”

Okoh said that the large number of people at the rural markets might not even appreciate e-payment methods thus exposing an investor to high risk of attack and loss of capital.

“Value addition is essential if we must make appreciable revenue from our produce export; there is every need to process those produce into commodities to make more foreign exchange instead of selling raw to the global market.

“In the processes of value addition, a lot of jobs will be created in the economy thereby stabilising the system in addition to foreign exchange earnings,” he said.

Okoh, while decrying the lack of incentives that could support export in the country, said that Nigeria unfortunately had no modern technology to adapt to globally best practice through value addition.

”That greatly led to capital flight and erosion of revenue,” he said.

He urged government to support produce processors to acquire machines, equipment or set up hubs in every zone in the country with specific crops of comparative advantages to enhance value addition.

Okoh said that Ogbomosho and Kogi known for raw cashew nut production were places where government could set up or support the building of a processing plant to add value to the product.

He said that the south east and south south zones of the country were places where oil palm processing plants could be established to help in value addition to shore up revenue as well as create jobs for people after the pandemic.

He said that the exporters faced enormous challenges which had contributed to low input from export to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Okoh said that most products were best sourced at harvest and exporters would need enough capital to be able to buy from the farmers early in the harvest when the quality was high.

He said that the condition of accessing the export finance was not in tandem with expiration dynamic.

“As a borrower, you were expected to provide an exporter contract before applying for the loan and in most cases, the loan would take an average of three months before it might be granted.’’

Okoh said that even at that, the terms and conditions in the export contract was usually for 21to 45 days to complete execution of contract.

The exporter, while lamenting the hindrances to export trade and the disruption of businesses by the COVID-19 pandemic, said that the country could rely on its produce export to stabilise the economy in the nearest future with the enabling environment.

Edited By: Jane Frances Oraka/Grace Yussuf (NAN)