By Godfrey Bivbere & Ebuka Oko
There are indications that Nigerians are being frustrated from exportation of agricultural produce by a foreign cartel that controls the business in the country.
Vanguard Maritime Report gathered that the cartel comprising mostly businessmen from India and Palestine, now stand as middlemen between Nigerian exporters and the foreign buyers of such exports.
Vanguard Maritime Report also learnt that the cartel has agents spread around the country, even to villages and the remotest areas to mop up the targeted export produce, thereby squeezing out Nigerian buyers.
A source who spoke to Vanguard Maritime Report on the issue explained that the agents are made up of foreigners with Nigerian assistants who help in gathering the produce across the country before moving them to Lagos for onward shipment abroad.
The source further explained that the cartel, with their extensive international collaborators, influences some target destination countries to label products exported directly by Nigerians as ‘substandard’ to discourage Nigerians from venturing into the commodity export business.
The source noted that Nigerians who export their goods through the cartel get far less than what they should earn if they exported directly.
Vanguard Maritime Report learnt that some prominent Nigerians in government were backing the cartel because of the financial benefit they get from activities of these foreigners.
Speaking to Vanguard Maritime Report, retired Customs officer and Managing Director of Teams Shipping Company Ltd, Chris Osunkwo, who is now into import/export business confirmed the existence of the cartel.
Osunkwo noted that government seems to be putting hindrances on the way of Nigerians wishing to embark on export through the imposition of restrictions.
He said, “on the exportation of agricultural products, you have to get permits from the ministry of agriculture, be it quarantine, and other related departments under the ministry, and they do not come easily. But the big problem is sometimes you export something, on getting to the destination, because of the cartels or their syndicates, they will tell you that it does not meet their qualifications. You are frustrated, you have to get it back to your country, and you have lost all the freight of keeping it there, and the freight of bringing it back.
“They are foreigners, the majority of them are Indians and the Lebanese who are neck-deep into export in Nigeria. Our people are only looking at import, majority of Nigerians are either ignorant or nonchalant on export. There are uncountable yields and returns from export. It is a very lucrative enterprise which I will sincerely advise every Nigerian to go into. I am talking from experience.
“One is the difficulty in getting the end users or buyers outside here. So, when you manage to get out of this country with your export, they make sure you don’t get the end-users there, you must pass through them. So, what most of them do is get you down and you must sell at their own price. But if you get the end-users, you stand to gain more because you have to sell at a higher price and make more profit.
‘‘However, when they force you to sell at their own price, they buy from you and then resell. You are just at their mercy,” he concluded.