Made-in-Nigeria food… not the EU taste
Agricultural goods produced in Nigeria for exportation are being rejected at the entry point of the European market because of “poor standard.” ITUNU AJAYI (Abuja) reports that the EU’s decision threatens Nigeria’s foreign earnings in a way more significant than imagined.
It is no longer news that the European Commission (EC) suspended the export of some agricultural products into EU countries in June 2015 up until June 2016. The Commission said the one-year window was given to Nigeria government so that it could get its acts together and respond to the notices it has given the government which were ignored and the suspension measure was the only action it could take.
The Commission through the Head of Trade and Economic Section of the EU delegation to Nigeria, Mr. Filippo Amato said the ban would remain until substantial guarantees are provided that adequate official control systems have been put in place to
Top on the list of food items banned from entering Europe is beans. Others are sesame seeds, melon seeds, dried fish, meat, peanut chips and palm oil. The reasons given include the inability of exporters to adhere to global standards, poor packaging, and high level of chemicals.
Specifically according to European Food Safety Authority, beans is expected to have maximum residue limit of 0.01mg/kg but the ones from Nigeria contain between 0.03mg and 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos pesticide, this, the EU said was unacceptable.
His words, “The reason for the import suspension measure of dried beans is that since January 2013 more than 50 rejections have been recorded at the EU border in relation to this product originating from Nigeria, nearly all of them reporting the presence of the unauthorised pesticide dichlorvos at levels largely exceeding the acute reference dose tentatively established by the European Food Safety Authority.
“This represents a rate of rejections of more than 70 percent of dried beans coming from Nigeria in the last two and a half years. This is why the European Commission considered that the import of this specific product would present a serious risk on human health that could not be addressed satisfactorily by simply continuing to reject further shipments of these products.
He went further, “In order to allow the time necessary for Nigeria to provide feedback and to consider the appropriate risk management measures, the suspension of imports of dried beans applies until 30 June 2016. If the European Commission considers that sufficient guarantees have been provided by the Nigerian authorities before the expiry of this deadline, exports of dried beans to the EU can resume as of July 2016’’.
The EU said it had issued 50 notifications to Nigerian beans exporters since January 2013; likewise, the United Kingdom also issued 13 border rejection alerts to Nigerian beans exporters between January and June 2015. In 2013 for instance, 24 commodities of Nigerian origin exported to the UK were rejected, while the figure climbed to 42 food products in 2014. Some of the items were said to have been contaminated by aflatoxins, making them unfit for consumption. And in North America, Mexico to be precise, the Nigerian shippers Council said it received no fewer than 100 containers rejected and returned to Nigeria from Mexico because of poor packaging and control. In all, about 15 percent of food and agro products leaving Nigeria and West Africa are rejected at the borders of Europe, America, and Asia, as they do not conform to stipulated global standards.
At the ACP-EU-TBT workshop on standards on the code of practices for Nigerian agricultural products for exportation in Abuja recently, Amato insisted that Nigeria authorities must provide an export control plan to assure that the beans exported to the EU comply with the EU Minimal Risk Levels for Hazardous Substances. He added that the key to economic development is not protectionism, but a good mix of policy measures and reforms capable of increasing the competitiveness of all sectors of the economy and consequently Nigeria’s trade relations with the rest of the world.
The workshop on the development of standards and engagement of the private sector addressed the ability of the ACP countries to comply with many export requirements such as Standards and Technical Regulations usually referred to as Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
With the theme: “Standard and Quality: Unleashing the Potential of Agricultural Products to grow the Non-oil Export in Nigeria”, the Acting Director General of Standards Organization of Nigeria, Dr Paul Angya noted that the objective of the ACP EU TBT project for Nigeria is to increase the capacity of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to assist Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to add value to certain agricultural products. The project aims at developing codes of practice for processing honey, rice, cocoa, beans and melon seeds and to provide SON with the capacity to train SMEs to implement these codes of practice for the production of quality processed goods.
He said it is also to strengthen and build capacity of the agency’s testing laboratories by enhancing the technical competence of the staff of the agency’s laboratory as well as assist its testing laboratories to become ready for accreditation by an internationally recognized accreditation body so that exported products can be tested locally in Nigeria thereby increasing the speed and acceptability of Nigerian products to export market.
Overturning the ban requires a firm approach to enforcing standards at all times. It is in view of this that, the federal government through the Nigerian Export promotion Council (NEPC) inaugurated an inter-agency technical committee on non-oil exports in September 2015.
Drawn from twenty agencies that have a direct link with agriculture produce and exit borders in Nigeria, the mandate of the committee is to ensure that no Nigeria agro-product is ever rejected anywhere around the globe again.
The committee is to tighten inspection regimes at importing countries borders as well as building trust for her exports. They are also to ensure strict compliance and adherence to food and documentary entry requirements of the EU and other importing regions, continuously collaborate with related export agencies on awareness creation for exporters, conduct an audit of food and agricultural products exporters to revalidate their registration towards putting in place a traceability system for exporters and their products, introduce a good code of practice for registered exporters to ensure best practices and serve a monitoring purpose that will ensure penalty for any defaulting exporter who exports without adherence to laid down guidelines and procedures and other sundry initiatives that would make Nigeria achieve zero rejection regime.
The Executive Director of NEPC Olusegun Awolowo said at the inauguration of the committee that the move to engage other stakeholders is imperative in order to put Nigeria on the competitive stage on the global platform and to ensure that the country’s agricultural produce attain a zero level rejection at the international market.
He said it is for the good of the nation for agencies of government and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to join hands together to achieve better synergy in other to put an end to the reoccurring decimal of rejection of Nigerian food items abroad.
Awolowo said the fact that no country can do business in isolation and the fact that the emergence of food safety and agricultural health and the related tightening of the market requirement are realities Nigeria should face at the moment as forming the bulk of the challenges of trade.
He lamented that Nigeria compared to other ECOWAS countries is facing the most severe cases of rejection of exported goods with relevant economic consequences which have an adverse effect on the financial status of producers and exporters of such goods.
Awolowo maintains that some drastic measures must be taken by the government to forestall any more loss in the agriculture sector if the prediction of the World Bank that developing countries could incur a potential loss of $6.9 billion from the rejection of exportable items in the year under review must be jettisoned.
Organised standardisation has now become an important element of infrastructure needed for the healthy growth of industry and commerce in all countries of the world and insistence on standardisation is aimed at achieving the reaping of maximum overall economies of scale. The agreement on a standard way of doing business will also promote integrated or harmonized the treatment of trans-boundary issues such as trade regulatory frameworks and policies while at the same time concentrate on regional infrastructure and other cross-border issues.
Much as Nigeria is concern about the revenue lost to export rejects and would do anything possible to meet up with the standards of the EU, who takes care of millions of Nigerians who buy food in the open market without any recourse to some high concentration of dichlorvos pesticide, aflatoxins, or any other chemical concentrations.
No comments yet