NAFDAC Plans To Rescue Nigeria’s Food Export
The ban on Nigeria’s value-added agricultural exports to Europe by the EU in June 2015 is threatening the shaky economy. However, Dr. Abubakar Jimoh, Director of Special Duties National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) told FABIAN ODUM of the Agency’s plan to rescue the nation’s food export.
On the EU ban:
In June this year, the European Union Commission placed a temporary ban on export of some Food products such as Beans, sesame seeds, melon seeds, dried fish, meat, pea nuts and palm oil. Even cocoa, cashew nuts and some other food products were rejected in Japan, USA and other countries on the ground of poor quality. The temporary ban, which ends on 30th June 2016, may be extended if urgent and decisive actions are not taken by concerned government agencies.
This ban on Nigeria`s value-added agricultural exports to Europe is threatening our already battered economy. President Muhammadu Buhari`s concerted efforts to restore the lost glory of agriculture as the mainstay of our economy faces a major obstacle from the suspension order by the European Union (EU). This is obviously bad news in the wake of decline in foreign exchange earning from oil and tell tale signs of Economic recession.
On the Agency’s intervention plan:
As Nigeria`s leading Quality Control Authority, NAFDAC Director-General, Dr. Paul Orhii is to deploy cutting-edge technology as part of the Federal Government`s rescue package. He is spearheading Government’s intervention with a plan of acquiring 100 mobile motorised laboratories that will traverse remote farm and produce markets centres all over the country – the 36 states of the Federation and FCT Abuja. There would be special consideration for states with high volume of agricultural activities.
The mobile laboratory testing will also encompass intensive training of farmers and produce marketers on food storage, packaging and other quality control issues. Apart from tackling headlong the problem of food contaminants, analysis of medicines and packaged water will also be undertaken. The mobile labs strategy has been used by Chinese state Food and Drug Authority to revolutionise its control and regulation of food and pharmaceutical products.
The proposed on-the-spot quality assessment and monitoring of value chain agricultural exports will boost quality of food consumed in Nigeria and also save us from the embarrassment of a permanent ban on our non-oil exports by the EU and other countries next year.
On rejections suffered by produce export:
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.
The international rejections were predicated on non-adherence to global standards, presence of contaminants (mycotoxins and pesticide residues) poor packaging. NAFDAC`s record showed that in the last two years, Nigerian food exported to European Union border suffered more than 50 rejections as a result of unacceptable level of pesticide dichlorvos contaminant contrary to European Food safety standard.
On NAFDAC’s concern:
Political Pundits have ascribed international Food politics by Western powers trying to undermine Nigeria’s efforts to diversify her monolithic dependence on oil as source of foreign exchange earnings.
It is estimated that Nigeria loses over $4Billion annually from rejections of our non-oil exports at international markets. Poor quality and low standard of over 60 per cent of our exported food products has denied Nigeria’s inroad to the heavily untapped trillion Dollar food product markets in Europe, America and Asia.
NAFDAC has cause to be perturbed by scary and mind boggling statistical data revealing Nigeria as net importer of Food products, where the nation even has comparative advantage.
In 2012, Nigeria imported N356Billion worth of rice (N1Billion daily), N271Billion sugar and spent N50Billion on importation of frozen fish when the country had capacity of producing and exporting N200Billion worth of frozen fish. Nigeria spends a whopping sum of N11.7Billion annually to import 65,809 tonnes of Tomatoes and N168 Billion worth of fruits, while Nigeria naturally should be one of the largest producers of citrus.
This despicable and deplorable trend is what President Buhari has decided to reverse in order to restore production and export of value added agricultural products to its pristine position as number one foreign exchange earner to the nation as in the past.
In addition to the reversal of Nigeria’s dependence on food imports, the twin problem of youth unemployment and mass poverty as well as Food security would have been addressed. We cannot also gloss over the quantum leap in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This is why the current effort of Dr. Orhii to acquire and deploy these laboratories must be supported overwhelmingly by the presidency, stakeholders in agric-business and Economic Management Team.
A stitch in time saves nine as the clock of the one year European Union moratorium to address the issues of poor quality and standard confronting our non oil exports is ticking.