The latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the Nigerian economy indicates that Nigeria’s total export value hits N3.1 trillion in the second quarter of 2017. The report, which covered seven sectors, agriculture, oil and gas, raw materials, solid minerals, manufactured goods, energy and other oil-related goods, showed an increase of 3.2 per cent over the first quarter of 2017 and a remarkable 73.48 per cent over the second quarter of 2016 and a trade balance surplus of N506.5 billion in the second quarter of 2017. This is an improvement from the country’s trade balance deficit of N572.12 billion in the corresponding period of 2016.
The report also showed that the current administration’s efforts in the area of agriculture are already paying off as the continued strong performance of key agricultural products drove the export agenda in the sector, with cashew nuts alone primarily exported to Vietnam, India and Kazakhstan, earning the country N13.5 billion, while Sesame exported mainly to Japan, India and Turkey earned N7.02 billion. Frozen shrimps and prawns exported mainly to the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States earned the country over N2.83 billion. Also, flour and meals of soya bean exported mainly to Spain, Ghana and Senegal earned N2.31 billion, while ginger exported mainly to Vietnam, Morocco and Sudan earned N633 million in the second quarter of 2017.
Nigeria’s economy has witnessed a slowdown for at least two years. This was largely occasioned by shortfall in exports by more than N8 trillion a year, mainly as a result of the crash in the prices of oil. The result of this has been the inability of government to adequately meet its obligations. The government also had to adopt various cost cutting measures as one of the ways of dealing with the challenge.
We consider the economic slowdown a blessing in disguise given that it also woke the government from slumber and served as the elixir that was needed to begin to think economic diversification in practical terms rather than just mouthing it. This, for us, is an indication that with the right policies in place and with proper implementation, Nigeria can indeed diversify its economy from being oil dependent. We understand that there are several obstacles to the attainment of total diversification from oil to non-oil economy but the challenges are not insurmountable. Growing the country’s export earnings is one way to go.
The improvement of the country’s export earning is, in our view, a pointer to the crucial role the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has to play in Nigeria’s economic recovery since there is now a consensus that the era of depending on crude oil as the country’s major revenue source is over.
Now, more than ever before, is the time to look inwards to develop export commodities as they have shown great potential for huge revenue earnings. The NEPC has a plan that identifies 11 strategic products and sectors as well as 21 countries for Nigerian goods to grow non-oil foreign exchange to $30 billion in five years. We consider this a step in the right direction.
What the NEPC needs to do now is to concentrate more on deepening Nigeria’s product penetration into countries where there is demand as well as other countries, and to marginally increase the volume and value of sales bearing in mind that the future of Nigeria is beyond oil, and in line with the current administration’s country’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. The government export promotion agency must form strategic alliances with other private and governmental agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of industry, Trade and Investment in its quest to drive export and improve earnings from the sector.
Since the country must first have products to sell to the world before increasing its export, the NEPC must be alive to its responsibility of assisting the development and promotion of export-oriented industries. The products for export must be produced to the highest standards to ensure that they gain acceptability in any country they’re sent to. The federal government on its part must ensure the steady implementation of its economic recovery and growth plan to consolidate on the gains so far recorded.
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