Friday, 16 March 2018

EXPERTS SEEK INCREASE IN MERCHANDISE EXPORTS

Stakeholders in the real sector including experts on trade and maritime matters have said that if the regulatory authorities in the various sectors are focused and impediments to trade are eliminated, there will be increase in merchandise exports from Nigeria.

They said this during a one-day capacity building workshop for journalists and public relations officers in the maritime sector, hosted by the APM Terminals in Lagos.

Speaking during the workshop, the Head of Government, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, APM Terminals Apapa, Austin Fischer, lamented that poor infrastructure and storage facilities had limited Nigeria’s capacity to compete in the global market space.

He said, as a result of poor infrastructure and high transportation costs, about 15 million metric tonnes of Nigerian-grown perishable goods were being lost annually through spoilage and product damage. He listed some of the affected goods as onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, okra, ginger and carrots.

To address the storage problems, he said APMT recently commenced work on the provision of modern cold chain transportation alternatives for farmers in the agricultural centres of northern Nigeria to bring fresh produce intact to the market centres in Lagos.

Nigeria’s merchandise exports, according to a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development statistics, dropped by 36.2 per cent in 2016. There was, however, an improvement in the second quarter of 2017, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics.

In the second quarter of 2017, merchandise exports reached N3bn, representing 78.3 per cent increase over the same period in 2016.

Stakeholders said policy changes on the part of government accounted for the improvement and they stressed that more needed to be done to position Nigeria as a leading player not only in the oil business but also in the non-oil export trade.

In his budget speech for 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari had made provisions for the export sector and revived the Export Expansion Grant, which was suspended in 2012 following reports of widespread abuses.

The Publicity Secretary of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Sotonye Anga, said this and that the government’s decision to expand the incentives’ basket by reviving all the dormant incentives would increase the export trade.

The Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Export Promotion Group, Chief Ede Dafinone, newsmen that with incentives and removal of impediments to trade such as high tariffs at the ports, the merchandise trade would witness a boost by the second quarter of 2018.

According to Fischer, in order to ease processes and reduce the cost of doing business at the ports, the APMT had fully developed and modernised its terminal at Apapa, Lagos and invested over N126bn in the development of container handling and stacking yards, container inspection facilities, sophisticated and ultramodern cargo handling equipment, information technology, automation, human resources, simulator and rail sidings to ease the gridlock along the port access roads.

An expert and lecturer at the Lagos Business School, Dr. Frank Ojadi, said to have improvement in the trade balance of the nation, policy consistency was important, especially among the various agencies regulating operations at the ports which was the major platform for international trade. (Punch)

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