By Tanko Mohammed
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has described post-harvest losses as the bane of agricultural production in Nigeria.
Osinbajo who presided over the virtual commissioning and handing over of the 200,000-capacity Yam Storage Facility at the Zaki Biam International Yam Market in Benue State on Tuesday said Nigeria produces 17 million tons of yam annually, but loses up to 40% on account of inadequate storage and processing facilities.”
Osinbajo said at the ceremony that Nigeria is improving Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to uplift the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
He said that improving the working and trading environment for small and medium sized businesses through Shared Facilities, MSMES Clinics and other government interventions are critical parts of the to the drive to support MSMEs.
Osinbajo further noted that post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities for the nation’s agriculture produce would be a thing of the past if more storage and processing facilities like the new storage facility in Benue State are established around the country.
The 200,000-capacity Yam Storage Facility is part of the National MSMEs’ Shared Facility Scheme being implemented by the Federal Government under the National MSMEs Clinics put in place by the Buhari administration.
The Zaki Biam Yam market is said to account for about 70% of yams cultivated in the country, with over 200 trucks loading 2 million tubers of yams weekly from the state renowned as the nation’s food basket.
He noted that, despite this, “the market has had very little storage capacity and its infrastructural facilities are way behind its capacity and the size of commerce that goes on here daily.”
He added that, “following discussions between the Federal Government’s MSME Clinics project, the Benue State government and market stakeholders, it was unanimously agreed that this 200,000 capacity Yam Storage Facility should be located right here in Zaki Biam, Benue State.”
The Vice President noted that President Muhammadu Buhari was excited about the commissioning of the facility because “a major concern for him has been that the COVID-19 crisis does not in any way disturb agriculture and the food supply chain.”
“That we are able to commission this project in the midst of the pandemic is especially heart-warming for him,” he said.
The VP explained the role of the Federal Government in the Shared Facilities project under the National MSMEs Clinics.
According to him, “In 2016, Mr. President asked me to chair an initiative called the MSME Clinics. The idea was to provide a meeting point in every state between regulatory or approving authorities (such as NAFDAC, SON, CAC, BOI, FIRS, etc, and small and medium scale businesses in every State.”
“So, at such an event the MSMEs bring their problems and challenges to the regulatory authorities, and the authorities can offer on the spot services and advice to MSMEs. This includes advice on how to access credit facilities through the Bank of Industry (BOI).
“One of the initiatives of the clinics was the idea of building Shared Facilities for the benefit of small businesses operating within clusters. This is because most individual businesses cannot on their own afford equipment necessary for their businesses.”
Aside from the 2-units of warehouses with a combined capacity to store 200,000 tubers of yam in the Shared Facility in Benue, the VP noted that, “there is the re-construction of 660 units of stalls/sheds, construction of a Police/market administrative building, construction of 8 units of public toilets, provision of solar-powered borehole with an overhead tank, construction of internal roads with drainage and installation of solar street lights.”
Osinbajo commended the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, “for his leadership and the solid support he has given to this project and to congratulate him on this commissioning of this game changing project”.
“I also commend and congratulate our MSME Clinic partners and everyone that has worked to make this possible,” he said, while also adding that there are now functioning shared facilities in Oyo and Bauchi States.