US firm demands $7bn cashew nut imports from Nigeria – FG

Nigeria’s efforts at scaling up the export of its agricultur­al produce to the United States (US) is yielding results as an American firm has placed an im­port order for cashew nuts worth $7 billion.
The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja, said that the order is for only one year.
He however lamented that in spite of the Federal Government’s push for the consumption of local goods, some Nigerians were still placing orders for pizzas from Lon­don into the country.
According to Ogbeh, Walmart, the biggest supermarket chain in the US, is demanding from Nige­ria 130,000 tonnes of cashew nuts per annum, with a total value of $7 billion.
He said that this year, six cash­ew processing factories will be es­tablished in Enugu, Imo, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Oyo states.
“We are looking at industrial yam starch for the textile industry and for export to China. The Indi­ans are asking us for beans, all cat­egories of it; the market in India is about $100 billion,” he stated.
The minister spoke after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which was chaired by Act­ing President Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, Abuja.
The minister disclosed that Ni­geria will today kickoff the export of yams to the United Kingdom.
Ogbeh said that the govern­ment would continue to encour­age the consumption of local­ly-made goods but that its hands were tied in some cases as it cannot stop Nigerians from importing piz­za, a yeasted flatbread, often topped with tomato sauce and cheese, and baked in an oven.
He said: “I am afraid that we have developed an appetite for imports which will take a while to cure. There are Nigerians who will use their cell phones to import piz­za from London; they won’t taste pizza made in Nigeria.
“You can’t ban them; you can’t go into laws on that because peo­ple will say you are being trivial. But thank God we are getting a bit broke, so people are cutting down on those luxuries.”
He noted, however, that “food exports had gone up in Nigeria in the last one year by 82% and “we want to make sure that what we send meets the finest standard in the market.
“If people choose to use their money to import irregular or un­necessary items, the government will look into that and apply ade­quate regulations to rationalise im­portation. We are not banning any­thing but if you must import things that are not necessary, be prepared to pay the duties on them,” he said.
On the yam exports, the min­ister said that two containers of the produce were exported to the US a week ago, and that the government was exploring more advanced and affordable ways of planting, stor­ing and processing yam produce so that Nigeria can gain more from the trade.
He also assured the public that with improved yam seedlings and increased production, the export of yams should not be a source of concern over possible scarcity of the produce or hunger in the land but an economic opportunity wait­ing to be tapped.
“Tomorrow, we shall kickoff this export in three container loads, containing 72 tonnes of Nigerian yams. Two containers went out in February; one arrived in New York on the 16th of this month.
“This is important because for those of you who travel and many Nigerians out there, you go to shops where they sell African foods and you never see anything from Nige­ria; it is mostly called Ghana yams.
“Now, we account for 61% of the total output of yams in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the rest is shared among some countries in West Africa and the West Indies”, he explained.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, also informed journalists that the FEC meeting approved Ni­geria’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Fund for Population Ac­tivities (UNFPA) for the procure­ment and free distribution of con­traceptives to Nigerians over the next four years.
“This MoU has to do with the procurement and distribution of contraceptive commodities across the country. The Federal Govern­ment has the policy of free distri­bution of contraceptive commodi­ties and services across the country.
“We have renewed the MoU to­day to last for the next four years be­tween 2017 and 2020; and that we also continue to provide effective safe voluntary contraceptives ser­vices across the nation”, he stated.
Adewole also disclosed that members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have been included as mandatory subscrib­ers to the National Health Insur­ance Scheme (NHIS) to ease their access to affordable medicare and prevent avoidable deaths while on their one-year service of their fa­therland.
He announced that the re­cent outbreak of meningitis in the country has been officially declared over, just as no case of polio has been reported this year.
Also, seven new cases of Las­sa Fever have been reported but the cholera outbreak in Kwara State has been contained.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, also announced the ap­proval by FEC of a new road­map to promote the teaching and learning of sciences and mathematics in Nigerian schools, pointing out that this holds the key to Nigeria’s advancement in the modern world and to save costs in importing basic tech­nology.

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