Smarting from the revenue loss and associated downsides
arising from the European Union
(EU’s) suspension of Nigeria’s food exports to Europe, Olaseni Durojaiye examines some of the
issues surrounding the suspension and Nigeria’s preparedness to resume food export.
With the continuing debate bordering on the need to diversify the country’s economic mainstay away from the oil
sector, further buoyed by the worrying signals from the sector,
agriculture ranks top in the pecking order of alternative
revenue points available to the
government. The ranking though
mindful of the foreign exchange
revenue potential of the sector and ability to generate employment is not limited to the two factors.
The call for a return to the farm has been particularly loud in
recent times because many see agricultural sector as a low
hanging fruit. Other reasons include the historical factor and
the huge value chain inherent in the sector. Another factor lies in the ability therein to generate
huge foreign exchange for the
country particularly in an era of declining foreign reserves.
The value of the food export business in Europe, America and
parts of Asia which is estimated to be in the trillion of United
States Dollar (USD) further gives credence to the potential credited to the sector. This
appears to explain why governments at various levels have been showing interests in
agriculture with different initiatives aimed at boosting the sector.
BARRED FROM EUROPEAN MARKET
However, findings revealed that the sector may remain under achieving without export
particularly to Europe and America. Recall that a number of
agricultural products from Nigeria were suspended from being exported to Europe last June. The suspension came
about when the European Union Rapid Alert System for food discovered excessive chemical
contaminants like aluminium phosphide and dichlovos in food
exports which included beans, melon seeds, sweet potatoes, cashew, kernels, nutmeg, snails and sesame seeds.
Other African countries are
currently benefitting from Nigeria’s loss as many African shop owners in Europe have since turned to exporters from Ghana and Togo for supplies of some of the banned produce
especially Palm Oil and Melon Seed. Expectedly this has led to revenue loss for the country.
Though official data was unavailable, THISDAY check
revealed that Nigeria loses over $4billion annually from rejections of the nation’s non-oil exports at international markets. Poor
quality and non-compliance with
international standard of over 60%of the country’s
exported food products have
denied Nigeria’s penetration into the food products markets in Europe, America and parts of
Asia believed to be worth trillions of United States Dollar (USD).
Use of pesticides
Dichlovos is described as an
insecticide of the
organophosphate (OP) group. It has been in use since about 1955 and is used in the UK both
professionally and in homes and gardens in a number of areas.
Besides being in use in agriculture and horticulture, it is
also in use in mushroom houses
against mushroom flies and against various insects and
beetles in poultry houses; and on
protected ornamentals, protected vegetables and herbs and
In veterinary medicine, it is used
for protecting farmed salmon against salmon lice; and as an
aerosol against cat and dog fleas while it is used as an aerosol in public hygiene.
Achieving zero ban of Nigeria’s agriculture exports Though the European Union (EU)
has set June as deadline for lifting the suspension placed on agricultural produce from Nigeria, concern has continue to mount on the preparedness or
otherwise of the country to resume exporting the products to Europe as investigations revealed that the lifting will not be automatic. Industry operators who spoke to THISDAY held that
compliance to agreed standard remains the criteria for lifting the
sanction adding that without that the country will not be able to harvest the huge revenue that
abound in the sector.
Some quality control experts within the regulatory authorities
believe that unscrupulous exporters of foods who circumvent quality control
procedures put in place by NAFDAC, SON, and quarantine
services contributed immensely to the avalanche of international
rejections of Foods exported from Nigeria to Europe and other countries.
According to a Port Harcourt, Rivers State Public Affairs analyst,
Ezeh Wordi, “Nigeria needs to upgrade its quality control
infrastructure and inter-agency
particularly between NAFDAC and the standard Organisation of
Nigeria (SON). This shouldn’t be
restricted to export purpose alone.”
However, besides compliance with global standards, players in the sector also maintained that
the economic policy of government hurts the sector. Those who spoke to THISDAY, including members of different chambers of commerce and industries