OKECHUKWU NNODIM and BAYO AKINLOYE
A Nigerian yam exporter, Dr. Timothy Ijir, who is based in the United States, has said that the US authorities did not reject any yam exports from Nigeria.
He stated this in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday.
He said, “I am the only person who has imported Nigerian yams into the US and I can say without equivocation that they were not rejected. Any statement to the contrary is false and misguided.
“Some of the statements and quotes credited to the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources are false. I am currently working on importing my next consignment. Our US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration import permit is still valid.”
Also, an expert in the agricultural sector, Prof. Joseph Ukpabi, has accused the Federal Government of not carrying out proper consultations before approving the exportation of yams from Nigeria to the United States, China and the United Kingdom.
In June this year, Nigeria commenced yam export to other countries as part of efforts aimed at reducing dependence on oil and increasing its revenue from agriculture.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, however raised the alarm recently when he said the US rejected yams from Nigeria because of their poor quality.
To avert a reoccurrence, he said the Federal Government would increase its disciplinary measures against exporters that would embarrass Nigeria by exporting substandard items.
Ukpabi, the Acting Director, National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudieke, Imo State, said the Federal Government did not involve the institute before commencing the exportation of yam to Europe and the US.
Ukpabi said, “The problem associated with yam export to Europe is due to improper consultation. We are the research institute in charge of roots and tubers in Nigeria, but unfortunately, we were not consulted before the yam exportation exercise started.
“The viruses that affect yam are numerous; so, you need to know the varieties of yam that you are exporting. I am trying to see the Minister of Agriculture to know what actually happened to the exported yams and why they got spoilt before their transit to Europe.”
Nigeria produces not less than 60 per cent of the world’s yam production, according to the Federal Government, but it does not rank among the world’s highest exporters of the crop.
The government, it was learnt, had directed some of its agencies to ensure that yams exported were properly checked and certified.
Some of the agencies involved in the whole process are the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, among others.
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