All that yammering – The Nation

  • Nigeria’s recent attempt to ship yam tubers ends up in a fiasco

Such tasks as moving goods – all manner of goods – from one border to another should never end up in such global debacle as happened to Nigeria recently. For the simple reason that exportation has been with man almost since the beginning of time, just as customs and excise activities had been integral part of government since man started organising himself under sovereign enclaves.

The processes and logistics of cross-border shipping of goods have long been mastered and coded by practitioners that they have become mundane if not automatic. Every manner of goods for shipment has its special characteristics and peculiarities. This is more so for live/fresh cargos which are termed perishable and/or bio-degradable as the case may be.

These ‘delicate’ goods are therefore granted special attention in terms of packaging and expedited freighting. Of course after they have been carefully selected, appropriately treated and found to be of the best export quality. Shipment of goods from one country to another is after all, diplomacy by another means. Indeed, deploying mass produced commodities which bear the stamp and imprints of the producer country into another is a projection of power and influence, sometimes more potent than weapons of warfare.

It is a subtle art of cultural annexation of the world that America has mastered over many decades through Hollywood, Coca-Cola and blue jeans, among others. Exportation of tangibles and indeed, intangibles, has become a most stealth and sophisticated international power game more deep-reaching and more enduring than the arms race.

This is why we are most nonplussed that container loads of yam tubers bearing Nigeria’s imprimatur which left the shores of the country last June for Europe and North America were found to be junk cargo having largely degraded and decayed in transit. How odious; what opprobrious and horrific international backhaul has been heaped on the already dodgy image of Nigeria?

To think that this inaugural shipment was carried out with much pomp and drum rolls led by no mean a personage than the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh. At that memorable ceremony at the Lagos ports, Chief Ogbeh was full of enthusiasm as well as effusive.

He spoke as if yam export was a new invention and the magic to cure Nigeria’s economy of all that ails it. He told the world that Nigeria was the largest yam producer in the world and that annual global yam business amounted to $12 billion and Nigeria had allowed her rightful chunk of this boom to slip through her fingers to less notable producers like Ghana.

If this mundane task had been carried out in a less noisome manner, the resultant hullabaloo trailing this fiasco would not have been; it would have appeared like a pilot gone awry and a learning curve. But the minister had already earned huge dollars in tens of millions while the nitty-gritty of export trade was taken for granted.

The minister had been all bluster and tough-talking when Nigerians raised questions as to the rationale of exporting fresh tubers when the bigger deal was in processing for derivatives. Calls for caution in order not to cause disequilibrium in local demand and supply chain were waved away with same simplistic approach to things. Yam price at home today has gone haywire regardless that we are in harvest season.

Now that we have learnt the hard way, we dare say that we align with the minister’s never-say-die spirit and his avowals to forge ahead with his yam export policy. We also commend his enthusiasm. But we urge the deployment of common-sense; yam production (especially for export) is a settled value chain and so is export a well coded process.

All these can be replicated to perfection if only we do the right things and take a little pain and quit yammering about a supposedly mundane matter.

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