By Lubem Gena, Abuja
As part of efforts to re-positioning trading in food across the region, a two-day regional conference on cross-border trade towards Deepening Food Trade Integration in West Africa” is on-going Nigeria’s Capital city, Abuja.
The forum is discussing issues on Tariff and Para-Tariffs, Experience sharing, Regional trade protocols, business and networking opportunities, documentation delays and illicit payments and Digital trade among others.
At the opening ceremony of the event, participants and players in the value chain have emphasized the need for trading activities in the food value chain should be properly harnessed in order to provide the much needed impact on the growing population.
The event is organized by Palladium Group under the program, West Africa Food Market (WAFM) programme with funding provided by United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID) in partnership with other critical players.
Participants at the Day 1 of the conference
The maiden edition with the theme “Deepening Food Trade Integration in West Africa” is discussing issues ranging from tariff and para-tariffs, experience sharing, regional trade protocols, business and networking opportunities, documentation delays and illicit payments and digital trade among others.
WAFM aims for growth in supply of staple foods, particularly cereals, and in the purchasing power of farmers in food-insecure Sahelian countries, strengthening resilience against periodic food-deficit shocks and contributing to prosperity, stability and security.
This is to be achieved via increased food production (yield increases and/or reduction in post-harvest losses) and cross-border trade along the Ghana-Burkina Faso and Niger-Nigeria trade corridors, thereby lowering seasonal price volatility in selected food markets.
The programme is made up of two components, a Policy Facility and a Challenge Fund.
According to Palldium Group, studies have shown that commodities exports are not diversified and characterized by heavy reliance on extractive products (petroleum, and natural gas) in Economic Community of West African Staes (ECOWAS). Agriculture exports constitute 10% of total exports with 60% out of this 10% representing cocoa production.
Participants listening to speech with rapt attention
The organisers also emphasised that, imports are diversified with a high share of industrialized products (Vehicles, refined petroleum, ships, telecommunications technology, industrial equipment, medicines) and food products, hence, the ECOWAS state’s major trading partners are industrialized nations (China, India, USA, EU countries and Brazil).
In his welcome address at the opening ceremony of the conference, the Team Leader of WAFM, Dr. Terry Lacey said, the need to help the sub-region to become self-sufficient in food production, distribution and trade has become very necessary and the UK government is ever ready to support the area to feed the ever increasing population and also export to other areas.
The programme which is a pilot scheme, according to Dr. Lacey will likely be retained upon completion of this phase in order to open up more opportunities for the players in the food value chain to maximally reap from the benefits.
While delivering the keynote address, the Director of Customs at Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Mr. Salifou Tiemtore noted that the program me aims for growth of supply of staple foods, particularly cereals and in the purchasing power of farmers in food-insecure Sahelian countries.
According to him, the project has so far succeeded in strengthening resilience against periodic food-deficit shocks and contributing to prosperity, stability and security.
In the course of enumerating the efforts of ECOWAS in removing obstacles around trade in food in the sub-region, he said much has been achieved in that regards already.
Participants in a group photograph
“In order to remove these impediments, and ensure the effective implementation of ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS), on the instruction of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, the President of the Commission formally set up the ETLS task force.
“The mission of the task force is to ensure the effective free movement of persons and goods in the Community area namely through arbitration and amicable settlement of disputes between the Member states as well as advocacy and mediation with the highest political authorities of Member States”, he added.
In their separate goodwill messages, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment as well as Nigerian Export Promotion Commission (NEPC) underscored the essence of the gathering, stating that is was a mission that is backed with a vision.