Federal Government moves to curtail rejection of agro exports
Piqued by the rising poor food safety practices and standards that led to huge economic losses evident in the myriad of rejects of some food exports at the international markets, the Nigerian National Accreditation Systems (NiNAS), said it is driving performance in the food supply chain to reduce the incidence.
They also declared a readiness to support Nigeria to achieve food safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic through reduction in cases of contamination, poor preservation method, and adulteration of food products.
NiNAS disclosed this as it marked this year’s World Accreditation Day, themed: “Accreditation: improving food safety.”
In a statement signed by the Director-General and Chief Executive of NiNAS, Celestine Okanya, this year’s World Accreditation Day provides an opportunity for the world to review on-going food practices and steps that are exigent to achieving food safety globally.
“COVID-19 has shown us that food safety does not only have human health implications, but could have a direct and adverse effect on both local and global economies are linked.
“The fact that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was initially found around people associated with seafood and live animal market, and the limited information about its transmission calls for learning and systemic change on how we perceive the role of accreditation services in general, and specifically as accreditation relates to food safety,” the statement said.
Okanya said that the sole aim of accreditation is to assure end-user and regulators that a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB), such as a certificate or inspection body, testing, calibration or medical laboratory, has the required technical competence and operates impartially.
He said “This competence is assessed by the accreditation bodies such as NiNAS against international standards and requirements.
“In Nigeria, there is rising poor food safety practices and standards, which according to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has led to huge economic losses. These are evident in the myriad of rejects of some food exports from Nigeria at international borders as a result of contamination, poor preservation method and adulteration of food products.
“Accreditation aims to help support the reduction of these incidences through driving up performance of organisations in the food supply chain.”
He added that “as NiNAS embraces this year’s theme with great optimism and believe that improving food safety should present a point of departure for more collaboration in making food processing attain acceptable standards in the public interest, we call for urgent implementation of Nigeria Quality Policy which will drive and enforce accreditation across the country
Exports have maintained a steady upwards trajectory, and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that agricultural goods exports rose quarter-on-quarter by 54.9% in the fourth quarter of 2017 to N44.7bn ($144.5m), and year-on-year by 170.9%. Full-year agricultural exports rose by 180.7% over 2016 levels to hit N170.4bn ($550.9m). Export performance indicators remained positive into 2018, and in May the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) reported that the free on board value of agricultural commodities shipped from Tin Can Island soared by 402.2% in the first quarter of 2018 to N29.2bn ($94.4m), with the total volume of exports jumping by 558.5% over the same period to 45,462 tonnes. Musa Abdulahi, area controller of the NCS Tin Can Island command, reported that major exports during the first quarter of 2018 included rubber, hibiscus flower, cocoa butter, sesame seeds and frozen shrimp. The NBS reports that agricultural exports rose by 63.8% quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of 2018 to N73.24bn ($236.8m), representing a 24% increase year-on-year. Top agricultural exports included sesame seeds, at N26.7bn ($86.2m), fermented cocoa beans at N23.3bn ($75.3m) and raw cocoa beans at N6bn ($19.5m).
Although food manufacturing and agricultural exports have both shown strong recent growth, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) reports that production hurdles have negatively impacted agricultural and macroeconomic growth, with value added per capita in the sector rising by less than 1% annually in recent decades. According to the FAO, it has been estimated that due to declining productivity Nigeria loses $10bn annually in export opportunities for major crops including cocoa, cotton, palm oil and groundnut, while increases in food crop production have been outpaced by population growth, leading to a surge in food imports (see overview). The FAO identified rice and cassava as crops with high potential for increased production and processing, noting that, with 50m tonnes harvested annually across 3.7m ha, Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer, accounting for 20% of global supply, 34% of African supply and 46% of West African supply.
Improving quality control standards will assist Nigeria in expanding its export markets in coming years. In a report released in November 2017, FMARD outlined its work on the Single Quality Control Management Plan. This five-year action plan, running to 2021, aims to bring Nigerian agricultural exports up to international standards. As it was requested by the EU, FMARD and EU officials met twice in early 2017 to discuss food safety and the “zero reject” goal for Nigeria’s products. FMARD officials have stated that standards and quality control measures are now being developed to improve compliance with EU regulations.
One major intervention will be to improve food packaging through reforms to local plastic bag manufacturing processes, which were identified as a priority after the EU rejected 24 categories of Nigerian food imports in 2016. Another important pillar for improved exports will be the development of the new SCPZs, creating a network of agro-manufacturing hubs that aim to play to the country’s regional agricultural strengths, in addition to boosting private sector investment in Nigeria’s agriculture value chain.