If Nigeria Must Export Food…

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It is no cheering news that over 70 percent of Nigerian food products are rejected in the global market specifically by European Union countries and the United States of America (USA) following their reported poor quality, packaging and labelling. This comes at a time when the emphasis is on economic diversification and strengthening the Naira. The many years of dependence on oil have been detrimental to economic development and are no longer sustainable. Other sources of non-oil revenue must be identified to bolster the economy.
In 2015, the European Union banned the importation of Nigerian beans for being high in pesticides, which are considered dangerous for health. As well, because of the administrative failure to provide the key information required, the US banned smoked fish processed in Nigeria in 2018. However some of our agricultural products have been rejected by foreign countries for not being recognised internationally.
Over the years, Nigerian products have continued to face rejection at the global markets on account of non-conformity to global best practices, hence, the urgent need to maximise the Nigerian National Standardisation Strategy (NNSS), will not be out of place to address the high level of rejection currently being faced by the country’s products at the international scene.
In other climes, the issue of standards is of widespread concern, especially if it is related to food, because advanced economies place a high priority on food protection in their quest to safeguard unsuspecting food consumers. Therefore, stakeholders in the country’s agricultural sector must accept NNSS to promote exports of non-petroleum products, because Nigeria’s plan to diversify its economy from hydrocarbon resources basically relies on strong non-petroleum exports.
The NNSS is a document that identifies priorities for standardisation in a country based on an assessment of national needs and usually accompanied by a national implementation plan that gives orientation for national harmonisation work within three years. The objective of this strategy is to support Nigeria’s industrialisation policies and to identify opportunities for improving socio-economic development.
To achieve this, farmers and government agencies involved in the production, processing, quality control and export of food must work together. In this way, exports would conform to international standards and would not be rejected in the world market. Trade rules must be respected so that our exports are acceptable.
It is expedient that relevant regulatory agencies of foods and export are compelled to end the continued embarrassing rejection of Nigerian food products by other countries by partnership to ensure the safety of the foods locally and internationally. Moreover, this industry alone can create many jobs and contribute to diversification and economic growth.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), in collaboration with its sister agencies including the Nigerian Customs Service, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Shippers Councils, Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Nigeria Agricultural and Quarantine Service (NAQS), among others, must commence a nationwide awareness on food safety under the inter-agency collaboration forum.
Without a doubt, inter-agency cooperation would motivate diversification of the economy through a systematic mechanism to facilitate export from Nigeria. The organised private sector (OPS) organisations such as Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Chambers of Commerce and Industry should brace up too as mediocrity in production and packaging has been part of the challenges in this regard.
Nigeria is keen to export agricultural products for economic diversification. This possibility is apparent in the amount of rice and other crops grown. It is, therefore, necessary for the government to ensure that nothing stands in the way of increased exports. Farmers and exporters should have no choice but to heed whatever direction the government might give in that regard.
We have a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the government at all levels. Specifically, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council should wake up also to get the relevant faculties of our tertiary institutions to step up research in production and packaging of products for exports.
This is an era of innovation through research that should be adopted by our universities and polytechnics. So, knowledge workers in this area should show up for the country. If we lose exports, there’s no way the economy is going to get better. It is time for all stakeholders to rise to this challenge, lest we should be the last even in the continent.
Unfortunately, while there is so much discussion about the need to export food to boost our exchange rate, there is a disconcerting reality about Nigeria’s inability to feed its citizens. The country faces a growing food crisis. This is a shameful and very worrisome yet avoidable scenario, highlighting the nation’s inability to feed its over 200 million people.
With the added security challenge, evidenced in seemingly endless Fulani herdsmen’s destruction of farmlands with their rampaging cattle, as well as killing of farmers in the South and North-Central, rural banditry and Boko Haram attacks in the farming communities in the North-West and North-East, the country is sadly walking the path of imminent hunger. That calls for urgent action from the government at all levels.
Given that the world market is very competitive, only high-quality products and packaging can meet the required international standards. Enhancing the quality of Nigerian food products is the best way to meet the challenge of rejection. More importantly, however, the local market must first be satisfied before we deplore further non-acceptance.

Culled from http://www.thetidenewsonline.com/2021/08/25/if-nigeria-must-export-food/

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