We are making efforts to develop the donkey value chain —Isegbe, DG, NAQS

The Director General of Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr Vincent Isigbe, in this interview, speaks on the efforts being made to develop the donkey value chain. He also highlights some of the activities of the agency in exporting agricultural commodities. COLLINS NNABUIFE brings excerpts.

 

RECENTLY you raised the alarm over the indiscriminate killing and smuggling of donkey skin, what is happening in the donkey value chain?

Donkey has become an emerging agricultural export product, we say that because it’s becoming very relevant now, the economic impact of donkey donkey skin export is enormous and the environmental consequences in respect of that donkeys green extinct is becoming more prominent.

So we need to address the two issues together, while the donkey’s hide is becoming important for us to export we need equally to be mindful of the fact that the same donkey is becoming extinct.

 

The other critical point we need to look at is the fact that some people are hiding under the fact that donkey meat is food, but I said if you have to eat any of the equine species, why don’t you eat the horse?

We are not bother about the horse people have been slaughtering horses in some parts of the country and eating, the quarantine service is not bothered about eating horse meat or exporting horse hide for now.

But we are concerned because the donkey hide has become an export commodity, and you know any agricultural commodity that is export bound is of importance to the quarantine service.

So we need to marry these two. So far we have tried to bring most of the donkey Marketers, producers, Ranchers to the quarantine service, some that have their letterheaded papers we have tried to trace them, but they are non existing all the addresses the give us they are not there which means that they know they’re doing a dubious business, we have sent some letters by the Courier Service, those letters were returned as not being able to be delivered at the designated stations.

So, but we kept talking and some of them are even coming to submit the same letter but we said look if you have a business, then you must have a location that we can address. So those issues we are addressing and we’re encouraging them that we are not against donkey export business as long as it generates revenue for Nigeria, and as long as the donkey does not go extinct, the quality service does not have a problem.

The only problem we have is that there is indiscriminate Slaughter and the few that are left, they are going down, that’s will have an issue.

So what we are suggesting to those who are involved in that kind of business is to go into ranching, breeding. The donkey value chain is so enormous, you can become a pasture manager. You have your own pasture and ranch where you harvest and store and sell pasture for the donkey breeders.

You can decide to have a haulage facility where you you transport those animals humanely from one point to another, you can decide to have a slaughterhouse where it is process neatly probably with the cold storage facilities for the meat and others. But before then where is your ready source of donkey? That has to be addressed, and that’s why the Quarantine Service is working closely with NAPRI in order to ensure that since we are the economic end of the donkey business, we need to liaise with those people who have the National mandate for donkey, which is NAPRI, which is National Animal Production Research Institutes in Zaria for them to be able to do that.

So we are forming a tripod of development, we have the the producer, you have those Involved in the donkey business, you have the Nigerian Agricultural  Quarantine Service involved in the exportation  processes, and then you have the people that have the national mandate which is NAPRI.

 

How far have you gone in exportation pf agro commodities?

Well, you know the regularity of flights have been improving, in some places, they don’t see allow commercial flights or they are in limited number, so the situation has not tremendously improved from what it used to be, but the export of agricultural produces is still ongoing, where there is bulk that’s where it’s better for us because it goes through the sea and that’s what you have like the grains and other material that you can ship through the sea, like hibiscus, it has been going, it started in June, we resume the export of hibiscus to Mexico in June following our submission to the chairman Presidential Task Force who gave us the go-ahead to proceed, so that one is on.

The sorghum project with the Chinese is still on hold because of logistics problem consequent upon covid-19 we were in touch with them recently and they said they were yet to fully returned. So by the time they fully return just like I address the the Senate during the budget defense, I mentioned it as well. So once they come back then we’ll resume that process.

They’re going to establish five large sorghum farms in the country and that alone will turn around the economy of those States because a lot of production will be done in that state.

So a lot of activities will be going on there, warehouses have been located to store the produce so that the offtakers can just go straight to the warehouse and pick his consignments and not to be going around each farm and a lot of cooperatives who are involved in that business are going to be revived.

So it will just turn around the economy of sorghum production and marketing. So that one, we are on vegetable export is still going on in Lagos State, then Ginger and other Commodities because they can go by sea, sesamea also can go by sea, so that one is still going on.

So we’re doing the best that we can, our major challenge, which I want to draw the attention of the country to is this value addition. We have not done sufficiently in that area. Imagine that we produce the cocoa yet other economic blocs dictates the price of raw cocoa

Then when it is finished into chocolate and cocoa beverages, they still determine how much they are going to sell to us. That is unfair. We need to do something in that regard.

 

So I believe that that does not fall directly under the mandatory quarantine service, but it is what will help us to add value to the commodity take the case of cassava. Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava, we produce about 59.6 million metric tons of cassava, that is about 20.4 percent of the total world production, but how much we earn in cassava export, $1.25 million, now Ghana that produces one third of what Nigeria produces earns $3.02million that is about 6.8 percent.

Thailand produces 10.36 million metric tons but they earn $1.8 billion, so, what’s the difference? You produce 20 percent of the total production, you are earning $1.25million somebody produces 6.8 percent, he’s earning $3.02 million, the person that produces half of what you produce is earning $1.8 billion.

It’s because they’re found the added value to their product, and they are selling exactly what the industry wants to buy overseas.

If it is high-grade cassava flour, they know how to meet high-grade cassava flour and they know the specie that can give them high grade cassava flour. They know the specie that can give them high ethanol yield.

They can now from that specie, supply to those factories that want to produce ethanol and they will get good value of ethanol for that quantity of cassava

But our cassava are not yet specialized, we are yet to have the one that can give us the high-grade cassava flour, we are yet to have the variety that can give us the high-grade ethanol. So we’re just producing cassava by name, we are not producing by specialization.

So we need to do that so that we can have value for the export, it is not just quantity. Just like somebody rearing cattle that’s happens in our milk production too, Nigeria has so much cattle, but if you take 50 of those Nigerian cattle, they are equivalent to one improved diary breed overseas. So why do you keep 50, you are feeding 50, somebody is feeding only one. Think of the housing for the 50 think of medical care for the 50, think of every other thing for the 50.

So we need to specialize. If it is a beef cattle let’s  have a special breed for beef. That is why other economies are breaking even, so we need to do that.

In the country, there should be national policy in the first place, there should be a national policy for beef, for poultry, for the dairy, for egg production, even for broiler, so that each one has specialization.

If you’re going to produce soybean, the research institutes should have the one is producing for oil, you have high grade yield, If you are producing  sesame or even groundnut, even our local people know it, if you go there they will tell you, there are some varieties that are longer they, those ones are good for oil, they yield better oil than the other one.

So for us to turn this agriculture around to have that economy of scale as a nation, we need to go to those specific specializations, so that our return on investment will be very high. If we are just producing for producing sake we will have so much and that is the issue with the cassava, we are producing so much 20.4 percent of the world production but of what value is that?

It could even be that the total mass of that production could just be water, so if you are weighing the tubers, you are just weighing both the water and everything.

Now when that specialization has been achieved, that becomes beneficial every other sector, it now becomes beneficial to Quarantine because we will be in the position to now help those who are going for beef export, help those who are going for dairy exports, help those who are going for egg export, and then bring out the international rules and regional rules of trade for those specialized commodities so that you see that everybody with a specialized product will be told exactly what he needs to do to improve on his export volume and earn much money for the country, that is the duty situation of the Quarantine Service.

 

What is happening to shea butter production, earlier, i raised an issue to you on how farmers cut down the trees for fireword?

We have written to all the state governors across, about 9 of them, and to the Northern Governor’s Forum bringing the attention of their excellences to this anomaly, we don’t want anybody to say i didn’t hear. We are yet to get any response from the governors, but we are still pursuing it.

We are drawing their attention that this an economy tree which none of them planted, they grew up naturally, and we are advising that they should commissioned projects so they can develop this shea butter and have short maturity varieties instead of these ones that stay  30-40 years before they start producing and then to develop a better technology for processing the oil, if it is processed crudely, a lot of the oil would be wasted. So those are the things that were suggesting to the state governments.

 

Are we adding another crop for export?

Yes we have, I think as at the last time, we did 19, we are on 23 now. We are adding 3 more this 2021. So once we add those 3 we will stop there for the time being and then we begin to strengthen those 26 that we have. Some of them are already doing well, we can do better, some need to be better exposed because they are there, they appear cheap, but people are yet to know that they can make money out of it like cinnamon, and if you look at the active ingredient is not much but it is the flavor.

So if  we can identify the ones that have good flavor, so the carrying agent will be very small and you can make a lot of money out of it

 

How far have we gone on EU and Nigerian beans?

We are working on it, we have gotten 20 liters of dry neem seed extract oil, we want to use it for one of the active ingredients as a bio degradable pesticide, you know of recent a lot of EU countries are banning our chouce pesticides and we need to find an alternative to it.

The major challenge we have a part of the neem oil seed extract is because it’s bitter, so you cannot use it for things that you are likely to boil and it’s like that, you can’t use so much of it on beans because yeah it would have killed the insects, but the bitter taste will be left of the beans and you know our beans is called sweet brown beans, so we’re trying to see at what concentration can we even use so that it does not affect the taste of the beans.

 

If you can kill all insect, good, but does it leave a sour taste? And what other soft substances or oil or seed bags can we still use for that?

It is going to be a long and tedious process but we have to start from somewhere. So that is what we are doing. There are other researches going on, there’s a researcher that has done some combination at a lower concentration, we sent some to Kano and then to Ibadan for people to use as storage pesticide, and to see efficacy.

So we are waiting to collect the results of those once and we will approach the EU, for them to see the level of progress that have done. We have gone round the nation doing sampling of beans to find out the content at level of pesticide at the selling points

The ones we did last two years, the level is coming down, but we need to sustain that awareness because it’s natural for them to believe that if we’re not talking more about it, they may go back to that same practice.

The major thing that we need to do is to create massive awareness and it is to be taken as a social responsibility on the part of Nigerians, if they see anybody spraying sniper or any harmful chemical on fish to drive away flies or grains, we should be able to advise ourselves that it is dangerous so that people should stop it.

 

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