November 16, 2023

Continued rejection of Nigerian agric exports

Continued rejection of Nigerian agric exports

IN spite of the existence of numerous quality assurance federal agencies, Nigerian agricultural products continue to be rejected abroad, thus making nonsense of efforts to diversify our foreign currency earning capabilities.

In May this year, one of the agencies responsible for promoting quality assurance for our agricultural exports, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, complained that over 70 per cent of our agricultural exports were rejected abroad. The Director General of the Agency, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye, attributed this to the poor state of facilitation for regulated products for export.

Shedding light on this development,  the Counsellor for Agriculture Affairs in the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, Christopher Bielecki, said in a recent workshop in Nigeria that our food exports are rejected in the United States of America because of safety concerns.

At a forum organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, in collaboration with domestic and foreign partners, Bielecki said: “I have spoken with (Nigerian) producers who are challenged with the difficulty of exporting Nigerian produce to the world, including the US. They have reported a high rate of rejection, and this rejection is mostly as a result of lack of documentation on food safety”.

It is shocking that regulatory inadequacies continue to dog our efforts to sell our agricultural products in foreign markets. We have a large number of regulatory agencies which should be able to take care of that. NAFDAC is definitely one of them. Another one is the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, which appears to be a duplicate of NAFDAC.

We also have the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, NAQS, which is directly charged with ensuring that our food exports meet international standards. There is also the Nigerian National Accreditation Service, NINAS, which accredits export conformity bodies to ensure marketability of Nigerian food exports. These and other agencies just pay lip service to their mandates.

At every public forum, the need for collaboration among these agencies are emphasised, but nothing is done thereafter. During the Muhammadu Buhari regime, much heavy weather was made of the need to diversify our foreign exchange earning sources. Indeed, a very seasoned advocate for that, Mr. Audu Ogbe, was made the Minister of Agriculture. He promised to turn around the situation of woeful rejection of our exports abroad but failed to achieve any concrete result.

We call on the Bola Tinubu regime to make a difference by working on these regulatory agencies and removing any clog in the wheel of inter-agency collaboration. Some of these agencies may need to be scrapped or merged. A presidential mandate is required to ensure that Nigerian exports enjoy a smoother ride in the international market.

We must end our dependency on crude oil sales.