LAGOS – As the effect of the lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic continue to bite harder on businesses and the nation’s economy, agro commodity exporters have lamented that they are the worst hit as they could not export their produce due to the restrictions in movement.
Sayina Riman, National President of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) in a telephone interview, said that cocoa farmers and exporters have been the worst hit, as they could not export because the produce has been held down by the COVID-19 lockdown.
He said most of the farmers are just struggling to make ends meet as the price of the commodity has dropped drastically.
Riman noted that there is very low capacity of processing that the Association is planning to visit President Muhammadu Buhari on its 10 years Cocoa Action plan which is to ensure that local consumption of cocoa will be promoted.
He said promoting local consumption is the way to go as it is one of the sustainable ways to hold the economy, stressing that if consumption has been promoted and there is high local consumption, the effect of the lockdown on export would not have been felt so much.
“Just before the lockdown started, we were planning to visit Mr. President to present our 10 year Cocoa action plans so as to fast-track, encourage and promote local consumption of cocoa because that is the way to go, it is highly sustainable.
“We are still hell-bent on believing that the country’s right way in cocoa is promoting local consumption,” he said.
Riman added that even at the international community under the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) it is planning to support Nigeria in financing to be able to be the first origin country to promote local consumption.
“The Executive Director of ICCO in his five year action plan is in tandem with our 10 year action plan, the first time in the history of cocoa and cocoa production in Nigeria, we have the international community giving us that very strong backing.
Also, Dr. Victor Iyama, National President of the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association (FACAN), corroborated Riman’s view that agro exporters are badly affected, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a devastating impact on the agricultural produce.
He said buyers are not buying because there is lockdown all over the country and all over the world, and that there are no demands and even where the terminal markets are open like in cocoa. For example, one can see that the price has really nosedived.
“The truth is that it is going to affect so many of us because the buyers are not even buying because there is lockdown all over the country and all over the world.
“And there are no demands and even where the terminal markets are open like in cocoa, for example, you can see that the price has really nosedived- say the cocoa that most of us have bought for N960, 000 plus FOB (Free on Board) charges that is going for over N1million, if you sell today, you will lose nothing less than between N350, 000 to N400, 000, how do you do that?
Speaking further he said apart from the prices nose-diving, there will be serious short weight because the longer it stays the longer it loses weight.
According to him, “Apart from the price nose-diving, there is going to be serious short-weight because the longer it stays, the longer it loses weight. Of course, you can still try to keep it in such a way that the quality will not deteriorate but definitely it will lose weight.
“Many of us in the sector have people who have stocked ginger, cocoa and other crops because the thing happened suddenly. We are still in the midst of the season, so only a few farmers will be affected as most of us had already taken the goods off the farmers,” he said.
Iyama said the pandemic is a wake-up call to the government to pursue its plan of diversifying the economy, noting that agriculture alone could guarantee over $100billion revenue yearly if government is ready to do the needful.
To mitigate losses incurred by the exporters, Iyama said government could help minimise the losses by giving at least a 50 per cent rebate after ascertaining the authenticity of goods kept in warehouses.
“Government can also use goods as collateral to give exporters soft loans, which is interest-free to help mitigate the situation, as well as enable them to buy more to blend and sell.”
Ojo Ajanaku, National President of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN) also said that the Covid-19 pandemic has definitely affected all businesses, that majority of the cashew produced in the country are exported with just little being processed.
“Majority of the cashew we produce here in this country is what we export the raw nut and what we process here is just about 20 to 25 percent which means the cashew is traded internationally and the global lockdown affected the trade and we could no longer have the free flow we use to have with the international market.
“Some contracts were cancelled because you cannot meet up with the shipping terms, the ship were not moving, the seaports were also lockdown, it really affected our trade value,” he said.