Synergos Nigeria, a global non-profit organisation, has called for the harmonisation and domestication of all Federal Government policies on food standards in codified form to facilitate their implementation.
Mr Gbenga Folaranmi, a Consultant on Food Standards with Synergos Nigeria, made the call in Lokoja at a Validation Workshop on Standards, organised by Synergos for stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
He said that the call had become necessary as the current government policies in various contexts were deemed as too complex for local farmers to understand and implement.
He re-emphasised the need to harmonise the Federal Government’s legislation, policies and standards on food to enable them to conform to international regulations and standards, while enhancing the standardisation of the country’s agricultural produce at all levels.
The consultant said that at present, smallholder farmers had very limited ability to access viable local and international markets for their produce, adding that this had been a major challenge facing sustainable agricultural development in the country.
“The farming business cannot grow and be sustainable without the existence of market, be it local or international.
“This offers the possibility of making profit and it encourages farmers to stay in production and grow their farming businesses,’’ he said.
Folaranmi said that the challenges facing produce exportation in Nigeria included produce grading and standards issues, stringent Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) requirements, high transportation costs and poor trade facilitation system, among others.
He, therefore, underscored the need to increase advocacy on food safety via radio programmes, bill boards and other mass media channels so as to stimulate public awareness of the importance of adopting good food safety procedures, especially in the rural areas.
The consultant suggested that the public awareness campaign should also involve community watch, workshops and trainings, which could be conducted in local languages to enhance easy understanding.
He also recommended the administration of Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) on labelling of products which had been successfully cleared as “safe trade produce’’ and the provision of crop storage and processing facilities.
Speaking on the recommendations of a recent survey, Folaranmi underscored the need to encourage the establishment of community farmers markets and an agency to manage the harmonisation of food legislations, policies and standards.
In his contribution, Mr Stephen Ahiaba, First Vice-Chairman, National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), called for training and retraining of agricultural extension workers to oversee the implementation of agricultural produce standardisation policies at community levels.