Nigeria seeks partnership to resolve EU ban on agric produce

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Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) says it is partnering with the Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP) to resolve the prohibition of the export of Nigeria’s agricultural produce to Europe.

Dr Vincent Isegbe, Coordinating Director of NAQS, said this in Abuja at a workshop organised in partnership with COLEACP.

The European Union (EU) in 2015 banned Nigeria from exporting beans and other produce to Europe due to the high level of chemical contamination of the produce.

Isegbe said that through advocacy and the active participation of Croplife, an international agricultural chemicals company, the chemical level in the country’s agricultural produce had appreciably declined.

“The EU ban ceases officially in June 2019; we are discussing and we have gone out to do periodic sampling to ascertain on the level of chemicals in our beans.

“With that, we will know if the farmers are actually complying with our regulations and advice. So far so good, the chemical level is reducing; although it is at a slow pace but it is reducing,’’ he said.

Isegbe said that efforts were being made to improve the export potential of Nigeria’s fruits and vegetables

“We want to move our vegetable export to the next level; for now, we have a market for over 40,000 metric tons of vegetables which we have not been able to meet

“Although, Nigeria currently does not export fruits, yet it imports a lot of apples for local consumption.

“We can grow all these commodities all year round. We have a great opportunity to export these commodities to European nations and America, particularly during winter or just after winter. So, the market is always there,” he said.

The coordinating director said that the workshop presented an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss and provide sustainable solutions to the challenges facing fruits and vegetable exports.

“In term of the exporters, we have gone to the point of discussing with major exporters. For you to be able to export, you need to buy from the farmers who we have trained so as to know specific requirements.

“With the structures we have put in place, if you buy and have issues with the farmers, it is easy to trace back. Therefore, there is a chain of flexibility at any point in time which will really help us in our exports.

“We have decided to pick 10 commodities and do basic analysis on those commodities so that any young person who is educated and wants to go into produce exports will have the basic knowledge and understanding of the commodities,’’ he added.

Also speaking, Dr Andrew Graffham, Agribusiness Development Specialist, COLEACP, said that Nigeria was a nation with many resources, a huge population and a lot of farmers.

“There are more expectations for this country as regards produce exportation to the EU market but farmers are facing the challenges of the plant pest diseases which have to be managed, particularly now that we are experiencing climate change.

“We are in Nigeria to help on how to protect the local and international consumers of agricultural produce. We want to build confidence in the international market.

“We are working with the Federal Government and the private sector to address the challenges facing the exportation of agric produce and this workshop is one step and there will be many more measures.

“We will train the farmers in their local languages to enable them to fully understand the requirements of the international market so as to make Nigerian produce to fit in anywhere in the world,’’ he added.

The two-day workshop has “the Role of Public and Private Sector in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Systems for the Fruits and Vegetable Sub-Sector” as its theme.