Recently, the European Union (EU)
suspended the export of some of the Nigerian agricultural products into the members’ countries.
The ban exposes the loopholes in our regulatory mechanisms and
government’s failure to equip the relevant body certifying the
nation’s agro products for exports amidst porous borders exploited by smugglers.
One of the rejected products that have been in the news in recent
times is the nation’s dried brown beans suspended till June 30, 2016. Information from the European Food Safety Authority says the beans contained unacceptable dichlorvos pesticide
levels of 0.03mg per kilogramme to 4.6mg/kg. The European
Union said the acceptable maximum residue limit is 0.01mg/kg.
Dichlorvos is considered to be highly toxic, which can cause
difficulty in breathing, diarrhoea, vomiting, convulsions, and dizziness among others.
Daily Trust sought explanations from the Nigerian Agricultural
Quarantine Service- the body charged with the basic responsibility of certifying agricultural produce leaving and
coming into the country as well as issuing the certificate for the export of farm produce.
Dr. Vincent Isegbe, the Coordinating Director, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service told Daily Trust that the rejection of the beans is due to the activities of middlemen who
sometimes apply high doses of
pesticide when the products are prepared for export.
“The issue of indiscriminate use of
pesticides is more by middlemen
who buy and stock produce in warehouses in anticipation of export.
Also, these people don’t know when the
buyers will come. They may
apply the chemicals today and tomorrow a buyer comes, they will just sell it; so whoever eats such beans at that time will definitely be in trouble,” he noted.
Dr. Isegbe lamented that there are many Nigerians who are engaged in illegal exports of agro produce, adding that most of the intercepted and rejected agricultural produce in USA, UK,
and other countries, were not certified by the Nigerian
Agricultural Service (NAQS).
“Some of the exporters even used fake NAQS Certificate. But what the exporters don’t know is that those countries will always call us to confirm; and we will always tell them the truth. That is why some of the produce are rejected, confiscated or destroyed,” he stressed.
According to the Director, NAQS has held several meetings with
relevant agencies to adopt pragmatic solutions to ensure that what goes out or comes into the country in terms of farm produce meets global food safety standard.
To mitigate this problem, Nigerians Agricultural Quarantine Service must be repositioned to deal with the emerging thread to the nation’s agricultural economy. The agro-produce certifying body even lacks legal status to prosecute defaulters who
export produce without their
certification, as the Bill for an Act which seeks to establish them as
an agency has been awaiting Presidential Assent since 2010 despite the establishment of the agency in 2007.
With over 50 stations spread across the nation’s vast land and
maritime boarders including air and seaports, it has less than 700
staff, which sources in the Ministry of Agriculture said makes it
extremely difficult to control illegal import or export of farm
produce without certification.
The Nigerian Custom Service
cannot certify the quality of beans for exports just as NAFDAC cannot
certify the quality of tomato, pepper, vegetables or beans that are prepared for exports.
Mr. Michael Adedeye, an importer based in the United Kingdom (UK) in a recent stakeholders meeting with relevant agencies said the major problem that led to the suspension of our beans by EU also deals with export certification.
Adedeye pointed out that all his products that were shipped from
Nigeria accompanied electronic
phytosanitary certificates issued by Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service were accepted by the EU.