The Federal Government says it is planning a national dialogue to consider the re-establishment of marketing boards.
Chief Audu Ogbeh disclosed the plan in an interview with Newsmen in Abuja on Sunday.
Ogbeh who was speaking on the country’s 57th Independence anniversary, said that although marketing boards facilitated exportation of agricultural produce in the past, there was need for stakeholders to deliberate on their revival.
He said the dialogue would enable agriculture stakeholders to discuss and analyse the impact and challenges of the boards during its operation with a view to deciding whether or not to re-establish them.
The minister noted that the boards, while in existence, ensured that exported agricultural produce were not rejected at the international markets as they met the required standards and quality. “About two months ago, we met in my office with the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture. We wanted to hold a major national discuss on this matter to know whether we should go back to the marketing boards. “They were very few people who taught farmers how to grow things, how to harvest, how to dry them to meet international standards.
“They went round villages telling farmers what to do, what not to do, how to do it and they will buy the crops, organise a ship for exports. “They were abolished in 1974 under the military and since then there was only one attempt to replace the marketing boards with the commodity companies but they never functioned. “People are saying we should introduce the commodity exchange but I do not want the ministry to wake up and say we are going back to this.
I want Nigerians who know about it to come out and talk. “There are those who said that the marketing boards were abused and their major operators defrauded farmers but there are those who said that it was because they were abolished that agriculture declined. “We want to debate it, let’s take decisions together,’’ he said. Analysing achievements of the Federal Government in agriculture, Ogbeh said that agricultural exports increased by 82 per cent in the last six months.
He said the country in the first quarter of the year, earned about N30 billion from the exportation of agricultural produce. According to him, exportation of vegetables, sesame seeds, soybeans contributed to the earning. “ The demand is increasing and it will get bigger but there are challenges, we don’t have cold rooms to preserve our vegetables, yams.
“We are still breaking into the yam markets. We have got to find a way to allow young people to be involved in agriculture. Interest rates should be between three and six per cent.’’