By Sola Ogundipe
FOLLOWING the restriction by the European Union, EU, on export of Nigeria`s value-added agricultural food products, the National Agency for Food and drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, is set to acquire and deploy 100 mobile motorized laboratories to remote farm centres and produce markets in the 36 states of the Federation, including the FCT, Abuja.
Disclosing this development to Vanguard, the Director (Special Duties), NAFDAC, Dr. Abubakar Jimoh, said as Nigeria`s leading Quality Control Authority, NAFDAC had risen to the challenge by deploying cutting-edge technology as part of the Federal government`s rescue package.
Jimoh, who noted that the Agency’s Director General, Dr. Paul Orhii is spearheading the government intervention through acquisition of 100 mobile motorized laboratories, said the one-stop multi-purpose mobile laboratories are to be deployed to all the 36 states of the Federation and FCT Abuja with consideration for states with high volume of agricultural activities.
He said 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 by the mobile labs which Chinese state Food and Drug Authority have already deployed to revolutionize 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 next year. It would be recalled that in June this year, the EU placed a ban for one calendar year, on export of food products such as beans, sesame and melon seeds, dried fish, meat, pea nuts, palm oil, etc., while cocoa, cashew nuts amongst others were rejected in Japan and the US on grounds of poor quality.
Describing the suspension order as a threat to concerted efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari to restore the lost glory of agriculture as the mainstay of the economy, Jimoh noted that NAFDAC`s record showed that in the last two years, Nigerian food export to the EU suffered more than 50 rejections as a result of pesticide contaminant even as the nation loses over US$4 billion annually from rejections of non-oil exports at international markets.
Jimoh said 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 rice valued at N356 billion, N271 billion worth of sugar and spent N50 billion importing frozen fish when the country had capacity of producing and exporting N200 billion worth of frozen fish. Nigeria spends a whopping N11.7 billion 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 before the discovery of oil in 1956.