Palm producers, rice stakeholders express worry over Nigeria’s approval of AfCFTA

Stakeholders in the oil palm industry and rice production have expressed mixed reactions over Africa’s free trade agreement signed by Nigeria at the weekend. Fatai Afolabi, Executive Secretary of Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON), expressed pessimism that if Nigeria should critically evaluate the results of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), the signing of the AfCFTA might signal the death knell of Nigeria’s real sectors. He harped on the uncompetitive agricultural production and manufacturing economics that are characterized by high costs, standardization abnormalities and difficult and costly financing.

“In this respect, if the government does not put the necessary safety nets in place, it is highly likely that Nigeria would experience more influx of goods (of African and non-African origins) from African countries, which may overwhelm and further stifle our local production and processing capacities. “The period preparatory to the signing requires dialogues and confidence building by all stakeholders,” Afolabi said.

The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Kabir Ibrahim, however, said: “It is a welcome development, especially for agribusinesses. The African market for agriculture is very attractive to Nigerian farmers.” He, nevertheless, admitted that the issue of the porosity of the Nigerian land and coastal borders required special attention.

The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the Nigeria Customs Service, the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), as well as the Immigration Service, should be on their toes to effectively monitor and protect Nigeria’s economy against dumping and smuggling, he added.

Without the AfCFTA, Nigeria has been battling the smuggling of rice, palm oil, vegetable oil, tomato paste, and other products while the agencies appear helpless, and this jeopardizes survivability and viability of the local industries amidst rising rate of employment.

Similarly, African farmer Mogaji, Chairman, Agriculture and Agro-Allied Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce, said Nigeria would become a dumping ground for EU and U.S, “knowing that the rice revolution in the country has not been successful. “Akinwumi Adesina complained about the customs in all the interviews he had with the press when he was a minister of agriculture, saying that how they allowed the rice to come in did not encourage local production.

“Audu Ogbeh, in the last four years, also lamented the inefficiency of the customs. So, if the Nigerian Customs is not effective in managing local products, what about imported ones. They would find the Benin Republic would be a comfortable place to move things to Lagos and other parts of the country even if they don’t go through Tincan and Apapa,” he said.

“I don’t support it,” he added. “Donald Trump is fighting something in the U.S.; he is putting a clause that why would EU vehicles come into the U.S. with little tariffs and American vehicles cannot go into EU. So, it is the same protection he is trying to give his country that we must put in clauses here, that if you allow X to come in manufactured products, then 30 percent of our agricultural produce must go there. It should be traded by barter,” he added.


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