Viewing cable 01ABUJA1621

01ABUJA16212001-07-10 05:55:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Abuja
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: ABUJA 1548 
 ¶1.  This is an action message.  Please see para 12. 
¶2.  Summary.  Three Members of Congress visiting Nigeria 
under the auspices of a public diplomacy program met July 4 
with the Minister and Deputy Minister of Agriculture.  They 
expressed interest in pursuing collaborative ventures with 
Nigeria in the agricultural sector, particularly in post 
harvest management and processing.  Minister Bello welcomed 
the interest and promised to provide the Congressmen with a 
written description of Nigeria's problems, such as crop loss. 
 Bello looked forward to his visit to the U.S. where he hopes 
to meet with the Secretary of Agriculture, land grant 
colleges, and private sector representatives.  The 
Agriculture Minister's meeting with the Congressmen was 
brokered by President Obasanjo to revitalize bilateral 
cooperation and assistance from the United States.  End 
¶3.  At a sidebar during the Embassy's Independence Day 
reception, Congressmen James Clyburn (D, SC), Bennie Thompson 
(D, MS), and Earl Hilliard (D, AL) met with Minister of 
Agriculture Adamu Bello and the Minister of State for 
Agriculture.  The Congressional meeting with the Minister was 
actually brokered by President Obasanjo who met with the 
Congressmen during a breakfast meeting earlier that day. 
Ambassador Jeter, USAID Mission Director Hobgood, Public 
Affairs Counselor Bishop and EconOff (notetaker) also 
attended.  The three Members of Congress were in Nigeria 
under the auspices of a public diplomacy speaker series, a 
program intended to strengthen linkages between the National 
Assembly and U.S. Congress. 
¶4.  Thompson opened the meeting by explaining to Minister of 
Agriculture Adamu Bello that all three of the Congressmen 
came from rural areas with land grant colleges.  Thompson 
explained that land grant colleges receive federal funds to 
conduct research and teach in the agricultural sciences. 
Thompson encouraged Nigeria to focus on the agricultural 
sector in its efforts to diversify the economy into non-oil 
sectors.  Thompson related to the Minister that his visit to 
farms in Kaduna State impressed upon him the extreme 
disorganization that pervades Nigeria's agricultural sector, 
exacerbated by the lack of processing or preservation 
facilities.  The Congressman stated that the colleges in his 
district would be pleased to work with the Ministry on 
rectifying these deficiencies. 
¶5.  Hilliard said that all three Congressmen were members of 
the Congressional Black Caucus, which was interested in 
establishing stronger relationships with West Africa. 
Hilliard compared Nigeria's importance in Africa with the 
United States' importance in the Americas.  Clyburn agreed 
and noted that in his district (Florence, South Carolina) 
there is a mango processing company that might be interested 
in a collaborative venture with a Nigerian company. 
¶6.  Minister Bello stressed the relevance of agriculture to 
the lives of most Nigerians; 70 percent of Nigerians are 
occupied with agriculture production, he said.  He agreed 
with Thompson's observation that the system is deficient; up 
to 50 percent of every crop is lost because of the lack of 
preservation techniques and processing.  The Minister 
commented that seasonal variations have an adverse impact on 
price stability.  Mangoes, for example, will sell for 10 to 
the dollar part of the year and only 2 to the dollar the rest 
of the year.  He said that the agricultural situation is so 
bad that "it would have been declared a national emergency, 
but it has been with us all the while."  Bello agreed that 
what Nigeria needed was processing capacity to prevent these 
tremendous post-harvest losses.  He welcomed foreign 
expertise in this area. 
¶7.  The Minister moved directly into a discussion of how to 
put these ideas into action.  He mentioned his upcoming visit 
to the United States (Reftel) and asked whether he might meet 
with the Congressmen again in Washington.  The Minister also 
expressed interest in meeting with the land grant colleges 
and private sector companies; the Congressmen committed to 
try to set up meetings with some of the former. 
¶8.  Deputy Minister of Agriculture Chief Chris Agbodu 
commented that the Ministry has had years of discussion on 
ways to improve agricultural production and profits.  What is 
needed now, he said, is action on specific things, such as 
those the Congressmen were suggesting.  He pointed to 
opportunities in cassava, of which 35 million metric tons are 
produced annually, where nearly 50 percent is lost due to the 
absence of preservation technologies. 
¶9.  USAID Director Hobgood noted that his agency would be 
able to offer assistance in bringing companies to Nigeria and 
introducing them to interested private sector companies and 
farmers.  He stressed the important role of the GON to create 
an appropriate policy environment without involving itself 
directly in private sector collaborations. 
¶10.  Thompson asked the Minister to put in writing the 
problems Nigeria is experiencing with post harvest 
management, seasonal variations, and cattle.  Ambassador 
Jeter summarized what Minister Bello's interests appeared to 
be for his visit to Washington: a meeting with the Secretary 
of Agriculture (per reftel), visit with land grant college 
representatives, private sector producers and processors, and 
sellers of agricultural technology, especially in the areas 
of post harvest preservation.  The Congressmen suggested the 
Minister visit Tuskegee University, Alcorn State University, 
South Carolina State, Morehouse College and ABCUS. 
¶11.  Comment.  In their meeting with Minister Bello, the 
Congressmen were alluding to the Agriculture Bill, which has 
passed the House and Senate (in different versions) and will 
soon go to conference committee.  Congressman Clyburn said 
that he intended to insert wording in the bill to provide 
money for the "1890 Colleges" (the historically black land 
grant colleges, created in the 1890 amendment to the Morrill 
Act of 1863) for developing cooperative extension programs in 
West Africa ("or just for Nigeria, if we can").  Clyburn 
averred, therefore, that money for ties between the 1890 
Colleges and Nigeria can be funded through the Agriculture 
Bill, rather than through Education or Foreign Operations. 
The Congressman's intent appeared to be to provide funding 
for the 1890 Colleges to set up exchange programs with 
counterpart schools in Nigeria, aiming to enhance farmer 
extension services.  End Comment. 
¶12. Action request: Embassy requests the Department, in 
collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and 
appropriate Congressional staffers, to prepare meetings as 
suggested above in Para 10.  Ambassador Jeter received a 
letter from Minister Bello on July 9 requesting meetings for 
the dates of July 23-27.