*Demand direct access to FMARD
By Chioma Obinna
Experts have called on the incoming federal administration to initiate policies that would grant the agro sector direct access to relevant government agencies, saying it could encourage production and needed grants to enhance operations.
Making the call in Lagos, the Managing Director of Agro Merits Limited, Sampson Odipe said the proposed measure could turn the table, facilitate production and boost the nation’s economy.
Odipe made the call during a visit of the officials of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) which was held in Lagos.
The courtesy visit, which was part of NAFDAC sensitisation campaign for agro farmers on the use of chemicals, pesticides and other issues affecting crops and livestock farming, was similarly a forum for key players in the sector to highlight several operational challenges they face.
Odipe called on governments to make policies that will grow the economy and grant the agro sector direct access to the Ministry of Agriculture especially when they have complaints. Agro Merits Limited supplies industrial raw materials for the food and feed industries.
Odipe who said the company was in good standing with NAFDAC, however regretted that though the agro sector was directly under the Federal Ministry Of Agriculture and Rural Development, FMARD, there is no coordinating desk that is strictly responsible for the Agro Sector.
“We are known in Nigeria as one of the major players in the agro sector. We need direct access to the Ministry of Agriculture.
If we have challenges, we should be able to meet them without lobbying to be able to go to the Ministry of Agriculture and tell them what is happening and ask them to help us. That is what they do over there overseas. You can walk into the Ministry of Agriculture and they will ask how they can help you. Those things are not available here.
“As I said, it will be very helpful if the government and institutions directly working with the government could be in total control of the ports. That is the gateway. If that one is solved I’m telling you that this issue of agro-related problems will be mitigated.”
He insisted that taking care of the ports: being in charge, ensuring effective communication and giving the stakeholders access to whoever is in charge in the Ministry of Agriculture, would solve over 90 per cent of the problems.
He said to clear raw materials at the port, from N1. 2 million they paid in the past, the cost now ranges from N3 million and N6 million for one container.
According to him, the only way for any government to reach out to its people is through the agro sector because citizens must eat. It’s not important to drive a car or go out every day but they must eat.
Highlighting another problem, Odipe said, “Sourcing foreign exchange (FX) has been a challenge to us to do business in Nigeria and even the cost at which you get it is really affecting the cost of doing business. We virtually have to get it three times what is supposed to be the normal working capital.”
Corroborating his views, another Director at the Agro Merits, Mr Thompson Owoka, said they were not expecting a miracle from the new government but at least a shift in policy direction will be better.
Owoka said the new government should come up with policies that will grow the economy of the country, positively impact the cost of FX, other auxiliary things as well as prices of goods and services within the range of the average Nigerian.
Lamenting that they were made to pay value added tax (VAT), that is supposed to be paid by the final consumer of goods or services at the ports, he said the Agro Sector is unable to recover the same VAT from end users of the materials.
He insisted that the in-coming government should turn Nigeria around from a consuming economy to a productive economy.
“You know how much you were buying eggs 36 months ago and how much it is today. Why is it so? It is the cost of production. If the cost of production must go down, then so many things have to be affected to bring down that cost. There has to be concessions to the agricultural sector in such a way that agricultural products will be within the reach of everyone, whether it is animal, protein products, tomatoes, fruits; everything should be within the reach of an average Nigerian.”
Earlier in her opening remark, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Professor Adeyeye represented by Mrs Uche Sonny-Afoekelu, a director in NAFDAC, emphasised on feed safety as a necessity for food safety and human health, as well as a necessity for animal health and welfare.
She said feed is an integral part of the food chain and its safety has been recognised as a shared value and responsibility for food production.
Adeyeye said NAFDAC was on a courtesy visit and fact finding mission to know what the agro-based organisation is doing, adding that Agro Merits Limited was one of the Agency’s customers and as a very responsible organisation, NAFDAC needs to partner with those who share in its vision and Agro merits is one of them.
“It’s really not an inspection but a courtesy visit and we are here to see the warehouse. When you talk about the quality of a product, it’s a process and part of the process is storage of materials that make the final product.
“Agro merits comply with standards that make the products fit for use; so this is the confidence we have because whoever complies with existing regulations and guidelines will end up masking products that are fit for use,” she stated.
Speaking, Economy Counsellor, Embassy of Hungary, Trade Office Lagos, Mr. Gyorgy Mocsy said the country was trying to make relationships with Hungarian companies and Nigerian companies.
Noting that the country has a small population of 10 million, he said Hungary has developed its agricultural sector and recorded over $150 billion in export last year.
He said negotiations are in top gear and by next month, the country will sign an MOU with NAFDAC as part of connecting their country to the international markets as regards to the agro sector.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.