By James Emejo in Abuja

The Comptroller General, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, has said the country is expected to earn about $3 billion annually from hibiscus exports to Mexico.

Both NAQS and its Mexican counterpart body, SENASICA, signed a phytosanitary protocol in November to stabilise and grow the export of Nigerian hibiscus flowers (zobo) to Mexico.

Speaking at the 4th CG’s Summit and Management Retreat in Abuja, Isegbe, noted that the framework was designed to future-proof bilateral trade in hibiscus “between Nigeria and the largest importer of Nigerian hibiscus against avoidable disruptions.”

He described hibiscus as a metaphor for the countless high-value exportable agro-commodities, which Nigeria underutilise and take for granted.

Isegbe pointed out that agro-export intensification will boost the country’s overall agricultural productivity, generate sustainable wealth, and improve household incomes among the large swath of the 70 per cent population that is engaged in agriculture and agro-allied industries.

He also said the service is currently working to democratise the involvement of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in agro-export activities under its Export Improvement Initiative and Export Certification Value Chains.

Isegbe said, “Our people toil, in the rain and in the sun, to cultivate crops and rear animals. However, the majority of them reside in rural areas. They eke out their subsistence in 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. Moreover, they know little or nothing about export standards. They don’t consider themselves qualified to export because they presume that only the rich and the affluent can export.

“We are working to overcome this challenge of the ‘last mile’ by targeting grassroots farmers, off takers, and processors.”

He said, “The urgent task that must be done is to reposition our food production system to straddle our local market and the export market like the one and only giant of the continent.”

According to him, “NAQS is entrusted with the critical mandate to inspect and certify food and agricultural products for export and to facilitate international trade.

“The nature of our mandate puts us at the front of the federal government’s drive to maximize its vast potential in non-oil exports.

“Our work is essential any day, any time -it is all the more so considering the dire need for the country to escalate national revenue earning, create jobs for the teeming unemployed and underemployed youths and lift millions of our citizens out of poverty.”

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