The Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has said under the Export Improvement Initiative and Export Certification Value Chains, it will democratize the participation of micro, small and medium-scale players in agro-export activities.
Speaking on Thursday during the 4th CG’s Summit and Management retreat, the Comptroller General of NAQS, Dr Vincent Isegbe said most of the rural farmers are unaware of their right to access the ECOWAS and African Continental Free Trade Area markets.
He said in 2023, NAQS will adopt a more agile approach to making agricultural export inclusive through providing customized farm-to-port technical support and incentives to first-time exporters, rural-based exporters as well as women and youths.
“Under our Export Improvement Initiative and Export Certification Value Chains, we are seeking to democratize the participation of micro, small and medium-scale players in agro-export activities.
“The diligence of the Nigerian is most evident in the agricultural sector. On the farms and elsewhere, our people work hard. However, the majority of them based in rural and peri-urban areas are confined to the low returns of the local market.
“Many of them are unaware of their right to access the ECOWAS and African Continental Free Trade Area markets. They know little or nothing about export standards. They don’t view themselves as qualified to export because they presume that it can only be attempted by the rich.
“We are working to overcome this challenge of ‘’the last mile’’ by targeting grassroots farmers, offtakers and processors. In the past four years, NAQS has organized scores of training on export opportunities and export procedures for stakeholders on various commodities across many states, as part of our commitment to demystifying agricultural export in Nigeria”, he said.
Furthermore, Dr Isegbe said the Service would enable exporters to discover and optimize the business value in being on the right side of good agricultural practices and compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary standards.
“Collaborating with MDAs, the states, and local governments to promote uptake of the ECVCs and intensification of the production and value-addition to premium agricultural products.
“Strengthening our capacity to safeguard the Nigerian food production system against quarantine pests”, Dr Isegbe added.
He charged all NAQS officers to proactively pursue these targets, taking care to build understanding and the buy-in of the external stakeholders.
“In line with the Management’s vision to enhance the technological fluency of NAQS, we have provisioned the Agency to be fully automated.
“The software has been developed and deployed and some designated officers from all NAQS stations have been trained to understand how it works. In the first quarter of 2023, the automation regime will be launched.
The NAQS boss said the Service will switch to the cutting-edge tools that its counterpart bodies in advanced countries use for inspection and certification.
He said with the automation of NAQS processes, it will achieve four outcomes which include “the new arrangement will equip us to provide agile responses when needed.
“Two, the automation will ensure that our workflows adhere to the rules and help us know the who, what, when, and where of any activity.
“Three, it will reduce workload and burnout, relieving our officers of tedious and repetitive paperwork. Four, we will achieve consistent data quality and gain evidence-led insight into our service delivery, service users, and export/import traffic.
He advised the Offices to note that the automated system will mark the end of the manual era and the beginning of a digital era.
Dr Isegbe said the NAQS is saddled with the mandate to protect the Nigerian agricultural economy and advance its competitiveness in agricultural trade.
ALSO READ FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE