By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
The federal government is working towards ensuring that the three years ban on the exportation of some Nigerian farm produce to European countries is lifted soon.
The coordinating-director, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, Dr. Vincent Isegbe, said an inter-ministerial committee on zero-reject of the counagricultural produce to the international markets set up by the federal government is looking into issues that led to the suspension at the first instance and what caused the extension of the ban as well as to find solution to the problem.
He said the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service is optimistic that the European Union (EU) will remove the ban on exporting some Nigerian produce to European countries soon.
He hinted that the service and other relevant government agencies were working to ensure the removal of the three-year old ban in the first quarter of 2018.
Isegbe recalled that the presidency had set up an inter-ministerial committee on zero-reject of the country’s agricultural produce to the international markets in 2016.
The committee, according to him, is to look into issues that led to the suspension at the first instance and what caused the extension of the ban as well as to find solution to the problem.
He said, “The committee, comprising the service, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Federal Ministry of Health, among others, has made progress so far.
“Excess agricultural produce is meant to be exported since we are diverting from oil to agriculture. The main objective is that whatever goes out of this country should not return to us either inform of rejection of low standard quality. The three years ban will expire in 2019 but we are working round to ensure the ban is lifted in 2018”.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in Nigeria’s agricultural sector are evolving proactive strategies aimed at improving the quality of processed goods to overcome the ban on some produce exported from the country.
This is contained in a special survey conducted by journalists on the ban placed on some 25 exportable produce by the European Union (EU) between 2015 and 2016, in which respondents across the South West states and Kwara fielded questions in separate interviews.
In Abeokuta, the chairman of the Ogun branch of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Segun Dasaolu, said farmers were engaging in effective collaborative efforts with the state government in the area of training.
This, he said, was to ensure they were acquainted with the international standards and requirements for agricultural produce.
“The state government has begun to organise series of seminars for our members on production methods, processing and packaging through the Ministry of Agriculture”, Dasaolu said.
He urged the federal government to step up quality control management system for agricultural products to enhance their acceptability in the global market, adding that government must ensure through its relevant agencies that various food law requirements must be complied with during production, while the entire process in the agricultural chain must be complied with.
Prof. Olufemi Peters, executive director, Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Ilorin, noted that the EU may have banned locally smoked fish from Nigeria because of its health hazard.
Peters, a Professor of Chemistry, said that locally smoked fish contains poly aromatic hydrocarbon which could cause cancer.
“One of the main disadvantages of the way peasant farmers smoke their fish is the presence of what we call polyaromatic hydrocarbon in the fish,’’ said the don who added that the institute has designed smoking kiln that is environmentally-friendly and free from polyaromatic hydrocarbon.
Peters added that NSPRI smoking kiln is hygienic and free from any form of health hazard, adding that fish smoked by the kiln could compete with any in the world. “Once there is mass production of the kiln, fish farmers could export their smoked fish to any part of the world”, he said
Also speaking, chairman of AFAN in the state, Mr Olawale Ajibola, said lack of basic techniques in processing farm produce was responsible for the rejection of some produce by the EU.
“One major reason why those food items were rejected is because they found out after testing that the chemicals used for preservation were either too much or dangerous to health”, he noted.
The EU had in June 2015 suspended some of Nigeria’s food items like beans, sesame seeds, melon seeds, fried fish, meat and peanut chips, among others, from entering European countries till June 2016 but later extended it to three years, starting from 2016.try’s