The Federal Government’s plan to boost non-oil exports suffered a major setback, following the rejection by American consumers of large quantities of yam exported to the US.
The rejection was due to poor transportation facilities, the Consultant to USAID/Nigeria, NEXTT Project, Aderemi Osijo, has said.
He said biodegradation of perishable foods takes place naturally unless strategies are adopted to prevent, or delay this process, adding that yam need to be placed in controlled-atmosphere.
Osijo, who is the Managing Director, RBS Consulting Limited, said perishable food should be held at temperatures at which significant biodegradation could not take place.
According to him, when product temperature rises above the threshold for carriage, the risk of bio deterioration becomes greater, and bio deterioration can begin, with eventual detectable effects.
According to him, the yams may have spent a long time on the road and at the container terminal which eventually affected the quality of the cargo.
He explained that transporting yams entails expensive logistical operations, transport and customs clearance expenses that represent a significant cost of their exports.
To protect the food, the packaging has to be suitable for the purpose, the duration and the complexity of the storage and journey. He said if the government and the industry were serious about boosting agro exports, they needed to pay greater attention to the role of transportation and logistics to mitigate the impact of climate change on cargo met for exports.
Nigeria, on June 29, began the exportation of yams to Europe and the U.S as part of moves to diversify her oil-dependent economy and earn foreign exchange.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh kicked off the first consignment of the commodity from the Apapa port, Lagos. Following the rejection, the minister, said President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated his ministry to carry out the investigation.
He said: “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.’’
On the assertion that the export of the consignment of yam was done in violation of the Export Prohibition Bill, Ogbeh said the National Assembly would soon repeal the law.
According to the minister, there is a bill before the National Assembly to repeal the law. “It’s a 1989 law. It was passed in the belief that is only by preventing export that you can make food more available. We have a different philosophy – grow more food. So, the law will be repealed,’’ he said.