Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Sabo Nanono says there is a need to strengthen the nation’s regulatory and inspection authorities for agricultural exportation to address the rejection of the country’s agro-products in international markets.
Nanono made the call on Thursday in Abuja while inaugurating the Standing Inter-Ministerial Technical Committee on Zero Reject of Agricultural Commodities and Produce/Non-Oil Exports.
The minister said it was embarrassing to have agricultural products from Nigeria rejected in the international markets due to some unwholesome practices at the processing stage.
“We should avoid the embarrassment of rejects in the future, and strengthen our regulatory/inspection authorities to ensure that they live up to their mandates.
“The country’s desire for standard agricultural products and non-oil exports meant there will be vigorous pursuit of investment in quality control and standardisation.
“In pursuance of this, my ministry, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is committed not only to food security but wholesome foods of high quality acceptable for local consumption and Export.
“The areas of handling our fresh produce, cold storage and post-harvest loss management are also of major concern if we must improve on it,” he said.
Dr Vincent Isegbe, Director-General Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), in his presentation said in 2015, the European Union (EU) banned the importation of Nigeria’s dried beans, on the ground that the produce contained a high level of pesticide considered dangerous to human health.
He said, unfortunately, to date, the ban had not been lifted saying it was as a result of a supposed “failure to implement the EU’s food safety action plan submitted since 2018”.
Isegbe noted that cowpea was one of the strategic commodities in Nigeria’s agro-export portfolio, adding that Global production of dried cowpeas stands at 7. 4 million tonnes.
“Nigeria is the largest producer of dried cowpeas, accounting for 46 percent of global yield and 48 percent of African output.
“Nigeria is in pole position to dominate the global cowpea market but has remained a fringe and sometimes absent player due to persisting export control issues,” he said.
He further noted that Nigeria was not among the top 10 exporters of cowpea and the country loses 362.5 million dollars in export revenue due to the off-and-on pattern of cowpea export traffic.
Speaking, the Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr Olusegun Awolowo, expressed concern that Nigeria’s agricultural produce exports had been encountering challenges of rejection in the international markets.
Awolowo, who was represented by the Director Product Development,NEPC, Mr William Ezeagu, highlighted the challenges to include, non-compliance to administrative procedures such as non-compliance to documentation import/export requirements.
He also stated that poor packaging, labeling and insufficient information on the nutritional content contribute to the challenges.
He further urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Federal Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry to provide strong leadership by driving the process and ensuring implementation.