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Why rejection of agro commodities for export may persist

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A large consignment of vegetables and other edibles returned from United Kingdom in 2018, due to failure to meet international procedures PHOTO: GBENGA AKINFENWA

Agricultural commodities exporters and other stakeholders in the sector have bemoaned the continuous rejection on some of the country’s agro produce, which they attributed to alleged ineptitude of the regulatory agencies.
 
To them, the rejection from the European Union (EU) was a setback for a country that is desperate to expand its export basket to boost domestic agricultural activities and to increase Forex earning and create jobs.
 
Just a few weeks ago, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) disclosed that over 76 per cent of the country’s commodities are often rejected by the EU for not meeting required standards.
 
The Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, who revealed this on a TV show, said the agency got the information using the rapid alert systems that the products have been rejected.

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Recall that beans, sesame seeds, melon seeds, dried fish, dried meat, peanut ships, groundnut, palm oil and yam, were in the past banned by the EU for not meeting required standard, plus the claim that they constitute danger to human health because of high level of pesticide.
 
For instance, the banned beans were found to contain between 0.03mg kilograms to 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos (pesticides) contrary to acceptable limits.
 
In 2013, a total of 24 agro-products originated from Nigeria but exported to the United Kingdom were rejected, while the figure increased to 42 in 2014. In 2016, 24 exported food products were also rejected.
  
Early this year, the Director General of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe disclosed in Abuja that the country loses about $362.5m yearly in terms of foreign exchange to the ban on exportation of dried beans in the last eight years.
 
However, the NAFDAC DG, Adeyeye who lamented that aside the money lost by exporters, said the continuous rejection is a dent on the country’s image. She blamed exporters for boycotting regulatory procedures, noting that all the food products rejected abroad never went through the scrutiny of both NAFDAC and the NAQS.
 
“So, the people that are exporting are either taking shortcuts or they’re being deceived that their products are okay, just ship it, we will take care of it. Due to lack of adequate storage facilities, some agricultural products developed moulds before shipments, and such products when bought and used within the country don’t usually have problems.

But the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers And Exporters Association Of Nigeria (AFGEAN), Mr. Akin Sawyerr blamed the incessant produce rejection on lack of regulations and monitoring by the agencies saddled with the task.

He said: “They are given budgets to monitor all these things. So, you cannot just promote export and not monitor what is being exported. Other countries that are exporting have monitoring agencies that inspects farms, inspects processes in farms and the transport between the farmhouse and the verge of export.

“The monitoring agencies in most responsible countries do the monitoring in those places, it’s like saying you have set up a road but you don’t have traffic agency or policemen to maintain orderliness and you are wondering why people are driving against traffic. A road is not what gives you order, what brings order is the services that are there to monitor that people don’t drive against traffic. It is the same process between these agencies and the farmers.”

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Sawyerr said though people will always cheat, but farmers or exporters should not be blamed because they are after profit and they will cheat, “but you are supposed to monitor them, you cannot expect every farmer to be honest. So, if the government has voted an amount of money to the monitoring unit at the government level, what are they doing? Why did the produce get to the country of destination before somebody said this thing is wrong, why? Why will it be allowed to go so far?

“They can come and blame the farmers but among farmers, there are good ones, there are bad ones, there are dishonest ones, there are honest ones, there are some that are not dishonest but they just don’t know that what they are doing is wrong, but who is educating them?”

An Assistant Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Ndubueze Okeke said the challenge may be due to poor documentation and procedure, insisting that in this kind of business, international food practice and standard must be held at all times.

“At times it might be due to poor documentation and procedure. The NEPC has done a lot of works in terms of building quality and standard. The fact remains that there are some standard procedures that must be followed by exporters for the produce to be accepted like proper labeling; you have to put the insurance value to put the quantity of recipe and all that.”

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