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Nigeria loses $362.5m yearly to dried beans ban

By Joke Falaju, Abuja
21 February 2021   |   3:27 am
Nigeria is losing about $362.5m yearly, in terms of foreign exchange, to the ban on exportation of dried beans by the European Union (EU) in the last eight years.

[FILE PHOTO] beans

Nigeria is losing about $362.5m yearly, in terms of foreign exchange, to the ban on exportation of dried beans by the European Union (EU) in the last eight years. 
The Director General, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, who revealed this in Abuja at the inauguration of members of the Standing Committee on Agro Zero Initiative, said Nigeria was the largest producer of dried cowpea in the world, accounting for almost half of the global production.
He, however, noted that Nigeria was not among the top 10 leading exporters of dried cowpea in the world. 
Recall that the EU, in January 2013, placed a temporary suspension of imports of dried beans from Nigeria for one year, due to the excessive use of chemicals by Nigerian farmers to control a pest, Maruca vitrata, from damaging crops on the field. The ban was later extended to 2022.

He pointed out that this sad paradox was essentially due to the absence of proper gatekeeping to ensure that commodities passed for export meet pesticide residue standards and other phytosanitary requirements.
Isegbe explained that lack of export quality guarantees and the resultant off-and-on pattern of the export traffic of Nigerian dried beans was costing the country a whooping $362.5m yearly. 
He stressed the need for Nigeria to restore conventional export control measures at all points of entry to optimise its comparative advantage in agricultural commodities and diversify the economy. 
Speaking on the weak link in the bean value chain, Isegbe said the ban was occasioned by an export control gap, which allowed the shipping of dried beans with pesticide residues higher than the permissible threshold.

He mentioned that the results of the extensive fieldwork and laboratory analyses done by NAQS showed that the challenge of high pesticide residue in Nigerian beans was not nested in the farm.

He reported that the bean samples collected from the farms had low pesticide residues –beneath the maximum residue level (MRL) of Nigeria’s trading partners –while bean samples collected from the warehouses had high pesticide residues, above the MRL. 

According to him, this wide differential indicates that high pesticide use is traceable to the bulk buyers, aggregators, and exporters. In an attempt to protect their stock against weevils and other storage pests, this set of actors usually lace their beans with pesticides liberally; thereby, raising the pesticide residues in the commodity above the MRL and unwittingly rendering them ineligible for export.
He remarked that NAQS was undertaking an intensive public awareness on the dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides. He said the agency’s message on integrated pest management, the proper use of pesticides, and good agricultural practices (GAP) is breaking through to farmers, off-takers, warehouse owners, and exporters in the beans producing belt and across the country. 
He expressed hope that a shift away from synthetic pesticides to biopesticides and organic agriculture among agricultural value chain players will bring the country closer to the point, when Nigeria can dominate the global cowpea market and other markets where the nation can assert its comparative advantage.