About $111.2 million was realised from export of agriculture products in the first quarter of this year, up from the $63.44 realised in the corresponding period in 2006.
Export statistics report from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Lagos yesterday showed a significant improvement in the country's export of agriculture products.
However, cassava chips and animal skin exports were missing from the report, unlike in 2006 when about 10.35 tonnes of cassava chips and 149 tonnes of animal skin were exported.
The report indicated that export of agriculture products increased by over 15 per cent, with about 885.8 million tonnes of various products exported as against 547.9 tonnes of 2006.
Some of the agriculture product exported during the period include cocoa beans and derivatives, ginger, sesame, palm kernel cake and hibiscus flower.
A further breakdown of the list showed that cocoa, sesame, cashew nuts and cotton lints top the list.
According to the report, 56.4 million tonnes of cocoa products was exported, up from 27.3 million tonnes recorded in 2006 followed by sesame with 12.3 million tonnes; cashew; 6.2 million tonnes, palm kernel cake; 8.6 million tonnes and cotton lints 3.1 million tonnes.
Commenting on the report, some stakeholders attributed the increase to the public/private sector partnership initiative in revitalising the agriculture sector.
They expressed the view that Nigeria could have done better if the various policy frameworks instituted to boost production and export were implemented.
Mr Ade Adesida, Business Manager with Olam Nigeria Ltd. said that the record was low because there was no record of the informal sector, which could have raised the figure.
He explained that unscrupulous exporters often indulged in smuggling to evade payment of the mandatory one per cent pre-shipment fees and NXP fees of about $200 per tonne.
Also speaking, Dr Adewale Ojo, Secretary General of Nigerian Cocoa Association called for urgent action on the black pod disease affecting Nigeria cocoa's improvement on the country's performance in agriculture export.
He also said that smugglers of agricultural products often engage in unwholesome activities, which destroy efforts of genuine exporters.
Such negative action, he said, could lead to the discounting of Nigeria products in the international market, thus giving Nigeria bad image.
Ojo urged the Federal Government to assist the farmers with chemicals to curb the disease from spreading, while inspection and pre-shipment agencies should also intensify efforts at quality control, packaging and supervision of spraying of warehouses.
Meanwhile, Rice farmers in Ebonyi say they expect a bumper harvest following the introduction of improved rice seedlings by the US Industrial Development (USAID).
Chairman of Abakaliki rice mill owners Association, Mr. Vincent Nwibo expressed this optimism yesterday in Abakaliki.
Nwibo said that following dwindling rice harvest in the area, farmers entered into a partnership with USAID, which deployed some agro technical officers to assist farmers.
"USAID in partnership with another international body CANDEL, supplied 'fero 44 and 52' (improved
rice seedlings), herbicides and other inputs to farmers.
Nwibo said that preliminary tests conducted by the group showed that a hectre of land could now produce up to 7.2 tonnes as against the previous two tonnes or three tonnes.
"Before now, rice farmers use to produce between two tonnes to three tonnes per hectre, but with the planting of new seedlings from USAID , the pilot programme has shown that more than 7.2 tonnes
could be realised from a hectre of land", he said.
The chairman, who is also a rice farmer, said that members hope that the market, which has also being on the decline in the last eight years, would pick up this year.
"In the early 1980s to 1990s more than thirty trucks of processed rice was loaded daily from Abakaliki, but the situation changed from late 90s when we started recording less than ten trucks per day", he said.
Nwibo said that the of rice did not help the situation, adding that other problems faced by rice farmers were lack of government support to farmers and use of obsolete equipment in rice farming.
"If government can support farmers in their new partnership with USAID, rice farmers could help check growing unemployment rate as well as attract foreign exchange," he said.
He said that a "destining machine" that can eliminate stones from rice have been installed in the area, adding that rice from Abakaliki can now march imported rice in terms of quality.