As stakeholders urge FG to focus on non-oil export regulations
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Following hurdles making it difficult for Nigerian exporters on non-oil commodities to penetrate foreign markets, a firm called Policy Development Facility, PDF, Bridge Programme, Thursday, held its ‘1st Online Non-Oil Exporters Dialogue’ to address barriers to foreign market access with stakeholders.
The dialogue which was moderated by Dr. Olumuyiwa Alaba and Titi Ojo, brought key stakeholders in Nigerian export market including the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, NAQS, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, Leather Products Manufacturers Association in Abia State, LEPMAAS, NICERT Limited, and Le Look Nigeria Limited with the theme, ‘Addressing Barriers to Foreign Market Access-An Analysis of Spices and Herbs, Textiles and Garments, and Leather Products’.
There was a recently concluded Market Access, MA, study with key findings and recommendations were presented to show the current situation of the Nigerian export market.
The MA study analysed both tariff and non-tariff barriers to market access with a specific focus on Spices and Herbs, Textiles and Garments, and Leather products.
Some of the objectives of the dialogue are to facilitate policy discourse on market access and recommendations for improvement using evidence from the MA study; Create a platform for non-oil exporters, MDAs of government with regulatory functions for non-oil exports, international certification bodies to have conversations on how to improve access to markets; Equip MSMEs with the necessary knowledge to enhance their ability to gain initial access or increase their access to some selected international markets using Spices and Herbs, Textiles and Garments, Leather Products as case studies.
The dialogue services as a key contributor to the ongoing debate on the urgent need to diversify the Nigerian economy from over-dependence on oil.
The PDF-Bridge Progrmme is a 14-month programme that provides direct technical support to the Federal Government of Nigeria, its agencies, and independent regulators in key economic sectors. It enhances technical expertise within the public sector, contributing to inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The Programme identifies and works with champions of change, and supports them to conceptualize, design, and drive important policy and regulatory reforms that strengthen public goods and services to citizens.
The dialogue focused on issues around spices and herbs, leather and leather products, textiles and garments export in terms of documentation requirements, formalities and procedures for export, certification and conformity assessment, trade logistics, trade support institutions, access to export-focused finance, and market entry processes and rules in the destination countries.
The PDF-Bridge Programme is part f the wider DFID-funded Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, PERL, programme, a five-year public sector accountability programme which is due to end on April 30, 2021.
The PDF-Bridge Programme Manager, Dr. Titilola Akindeinde, said, “PDF-Bridge has been supporting the government of Nigeria in reforming the business environment to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to thrive sustainably.
“This non-oil export dialogue themed, ‘Addressing Barriers to Foreign Market Access will Contribute to the government’s diversification effort and will, in addition, enable the Network of Practicing Non-Oil Exporters of Nigeria, NPNEN, which was launched earlier this year through the support of our programme, to help the government set the agenda for expediting the implementation of policies that will foster the development of the non-oil sector.”
Akindeinde also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has re-echoed the danger of overdependence of Nigeria’s export basket on a single product-oil, which successive administrations gave made numerous commitments to growing the non-oil sector, the significant result is yet to be recorded due to various constraints militating against these efforts. Access to the market despite the abundance of tradable non-oil resources in Nigeria constitutes one of the major limitations to achieving the agenda.
Speaking also was the Director-General, NAQS, Dr. Vincent Isegbe, pointed out that self-regulation is crucial ast the association or cooperative levels to address and reduce issues of not meeting standards required by his organization.
“Export is not all comers business and it is important we have that in the back of our minds and be able to prepare adequately before we intend to export. I think within ourselves we need to do more work.
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“It is important to form cooperatives or associations, and in doing that the most reasons why there is a need to form those associations are to ensure there is self-regulation. It is this aspect of self-regulation is that most people who have to do something with the government think that the government regulatory bodies are very strict, overbearing and are not in support of export trade.
“In other climes, this self-regulation ensures that a lot of work is done at the background with the cooperation of the regulatory bodies so that at the end of the day business moves on seamlessly but when everything is left to the government regulator from the beginning to the end it will appear as if that regulator is overbearing, and why I say so is because at the end of the day it is the regulator that would be held responsible by the importing country and said look why did you permit this commodity that does not meet safety standards in your country. So we need synergy.
“It is interesting that we are focusing on some of these commodities in the quarantine service we call high net-worth commodities and spices is top of our list. We have realized that generally, those exporters should come as associations and that is what we have done with the hibiscus group.”
He also emphasized on streamlining the entire value chain as in the role of the executives from associations, quarantine service, farmers, suppliers, drivers and logistic, and exporters, which more commodity associations will be involved in order for them to know what the quarantine service is doing which will make it less cumbersome with that they can pass the certification process.
He added that the phytosanitary certificate should be not mutilated, packaging should carry the botanical name of the commodity, no other product should be added to the product to be exported, additional contents should be declared, use of chemicals on the farm should be made known to the quarantine service, and anyone going into export should involve quarantine service from the beginning to the end.
However, in his (Isegbe) closing remarks expressed readiness and willingness of NAQS to assist exporters by working to ensure they are meet the required standards in line with self-regulation amongst them.
The Executive Director, NEPC, Olusegun Awolowo, who was represented by Director, Strategy, and Policy, Evelyn Obidike, said PDF programme has supported the Council tremendously in championing the potential of Nigeria’s non-oil sector.
“At NEPC we have read their latest market access report and look forward to working with exporters to address the issues identified.
“We have already started and we are positioned and running. At NEPC we discovered the potentials in this sector that is why we came back with the Zero-Oil Plan, and under the Zero-Oil Plan we have 22 major products which are rubber, spices, textiles, leather are all part of, and these are products that can give Nigeria foreign exchange of $30 billion per year.
“That is the criteria we used to choose them and what we call category A. we came up with the Zero-Oil Plan and we were able to push through the ERGP and National Oil integrated this plan using the ERGP in 2017, and with that, we now came down to the states with One State-One Product.
“Now we are engaging the States, if the products are not available in the states there is nothing to export. Under the One State-One Product we cannot just keep quiet, exporters were not left alone, there we are talking about building production infrastructures, certification, traceability, global gap, we are working on ASIP, the MSMEs more than that up to registration”, he said.
Meanwhile, the President, Okechukwu Williams, Leather Products Manufacturers Association in Abia State, LEPMAAS, said enough need to be done to compete favourably in the global leather market despite Nigeria is dominating the West African market, as the industry has been neglected in the past.
Also giving advice to the government on boosting textile export was the Founder/Creative Director, Le Look Nigeria Limited, Chinwe Ezenwa, on the need to boost study, practical and entrepreneurial skills on textile and garment at technical colleges, and also to quickly key into the 10-year extension of the African Growth and Development Act, AGOA, and called on the government to declare a state of emergency on export trade.
“We should quickly key in AGOA because importation is duty-free on all our textiles. We now have another 10 years extension and what need to quickly do is to get our fashion designers and to look at what they produce.
“I am a beneficiary of training programmes from AGOA that made me use my bags to confirm that if you produce quality goods and send them to the importing country it will sell. My first target is given to me by NEPC to go to where they source products in Las Vegas and there I was able to compete with all illegible markets from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, and today my bags are sold in most parts of the world. We must engage our diplomats abroad to promote what we do”, Ezenwa stated.