EU rejection of 24 food products questions Nigeria’s regard for standards
The rejection of 24 food products from Nigeria by the European Union in 2016 is an indictment on the Nigerian government, regulatory agencies, farmers and exporters, questioning the country’s regard for global standards.
Abubakar Jimoh, director of special duties for the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), disclosed on Monday in Abuja that the European Union (EU) rejected 24 exported food products from Nigeria in 2016, which did not meet stipulated standards.
According to Jimoh, major products rejected were groundnut, palm oil, sesame seed and beans. Groundnut was rejected because it contained aflatoxin, while palm oil had a colouring agent that was carcinogenic.
“The problem is not just the exporters but the smallholder farmers who apply a lot of these chemicals on the crops. We need to start training farmers on good farming practice. The constant rejection of Nigeria agro products is a cycle problem, which needs to be addressed,” said Sani Dangote, president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) and vice president of Dangote Industries.
“Farmers use chemicals on their crops without knowledge of the implications of such products. Also, the government must set up a mechanism to ensure that we meet up with standards. We really need to start looking at the reasons why the products are rejected and start addressing them,” Dangote told BusinessDay.
The EU extended a ban on Nigerian dried beans for three years in June 2016 after an initial one year period, on the grounds that the produce contained a high level of pesticide (dichlorvos) dangerous to human health.
BusinessDay findings show that many foods and finished products of Nigerian origin are also rejected in the Americas, Asia and the UK, on account of poor adherence to standards.
“When you deny people quick and easy registration, you are pushing them to cut corners. Some of our regulatory agencies waste a lot of time in registration and even deny exporters registration for pecuniary purposes. When they do this, exporters smuggle their products out, which may not be inspected,” said Jon Tudy Kachikwu, a food exporter and chairman of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce SME Group.
Kachikwu further wondered whether what was not good for the EU would be good for consumption by Nigerian consumers.
Charles Malata, technical supervisor, the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI), a project supervised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), said at a media workshop in 2015 that Nigerian exporters often took global standards for granted.
“When the international community sets standards or dates for compliance, we do not have to dilly-dally, believing that our commodities will be accepted when we export them,” Malata said.
“What many exporters do not seem to understand is that there is an increasing restriction in the international market and this will likely continue. If we are to participate in global trade, we cannot ignore standards and international arrangements,” he added.
Abiodun Olorundenro, chief executive officer, Green Vine Farms, said farmers failed to realise that such chemicals were harmful for consumption, which was why agro produce from Nigeria would continue to be rejected.
“Farms need education on the health hazards of these chemicals and how to manage disease and pest infestation outbreak,” Olorundenro said.
Kabiru Ibrahim, president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said the association, in conjunction with Global GAP, were training farmers on good use of chemicals, herbicides and pesticides.
ODINAKA ANUDU & JOSEPHINE OKOJIE
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