NIGERIA - Non-oil exports from Nigeria continue to face mass rejection at entry points in many countries in Europe for failure by exporters to comply with standards specified by the countries.
The rejected exports are mainly in the food and beverage segment.
Top on the list of food items banned from entering Europe till June 2016 are: beans, sesame seeds, melon seeds, fried fish, meat, peanut chips and palm oil. Cocoa and cashew nuts were also rejected in many other countries, not only in Europe.
The reasons for their rejection include the inability of exporters to adhere to global standards, poor packaging, and high level of chemicals, poor labeling, insufficient information on nutritional content, presence of high level of pesticide residue and presence of mycotoxins.
According to European Food Safety Authority, beans are expected to have maximum residue limit of 0.01mg/kg, but the commodity from Nigeria contains between 0.03mg and 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos pesticide.
The Head of Trade and Economic Section of the European Union delegation to Nigeria, Mr. Filippo Amato, said the suspension measure adopted by the body in June 2015 was the only action it could take because notices on the matter to the Nigeria government were ignored.
He said the ban would remain until there is substantial guarantee that adequate official control systems had been put in place to ensure compliance with food law requirements.
“The reason for the import suspension measure on dried beans is that since January 2013, more than 50 rejections have been recorded at the EU borders in relation to this product originating from Nigeria, nearly all of them reporting the presence of the unauthorised pesticide dichlorvos at levels largely exceeding the acute reference dose tentatively established by the European Food Safety Authority.
“This represents a rate of rejections of more than 70 per cent of dried beans coming from Nigeria in the last two and a half years.
This is why the European Commission considered that the import of this specific product would present a serious risk for human health that could not be addressed satisfactorily by simply continuing to reject further shipments of these products.
“In order to allow the time necessary for Nigeria to provide feedback and to consider the appropriate risk management measures, the suspension of imports of dried beans applies until 30 June 2016.
If the European Commission considers that sufficient guarantees have been provided by the Nigerian authorities before the expiry of this deadline, exports of dried beans to the EU can resume by July 2016,’’he assured.
The EU said it had issued 50 notifications to Nigerian beans exporters since January 2013, just as the United Kingdom also issued 13 border rejection alerts to Nigerian beans exporters between January and June 2015.
In 2013 for instance, 24 commodities of Nigerian origin exported to the UK were rejected, while the figure climbed to 42 food products in 2014. Some of the items were said to have been contaminated by aflatoxins, making them unfit for consumption.
The Nigerian shippers Council said it recently received no fewer than 100 containers of goods rejected and returned to Nigeria from Mexico because of poor packaging and control.
The Coordinating Director, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr Vincent Isegbe, in reaction to the trend, explained that Nigeria, being a signatory to World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations, couldn’t act in isolation, hence the need to adhere to international rules and regulations as stipulated by World Trade Organisation (WTO).
He said certificates of exporter on the rejected products were not genuine.
According to him, NASQS is now issuing certificate of exports electronically to avoid further embarrassment.
Former President, Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, Professor Jide Elemo said the situation called for total quality control programme through the introduction of requisite institutions as it was in the days of old.
“There is need for what we call total quality control measure to be put in place. In those days, there was what we called marketing board that ensured good quality of produce.
The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is represented in a joint body of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food And Agricultural Organisation (FAO) that set standard for food, especially in area of limit of toxin caused by micro organism like Fungi.
The Nigerian businessmen are always cutting corners. When they send samples, they are always looking good, but when they are ask to ship the items, they become another thing. So we need total quality management even to the point of shipment.
Our quarantine services at the port should be up to their responsibility. The goods were not smuggled out of the country, they passed through the ports.”
Apart from quality control measure that should be put in place, professor Elemo said there is need for proper education for the majority of the exporters, adding that it would enable them to understand the pre shipment processes.
“There is need for proper education too for the exporters. In Nigeria, if there is money in one business, everybody, including those not knowledgeable in the business will want to rush into it and these are the people with tendencies to cut corners.
We should put more emphasis on prevention because these items that are being rejected don’t come back to Nigeria. They are destroyed. So it is the country that suffers”
The food and nutrition expert now at the Lagos State University said the humid nature of the Nigerian environment could be a contributory factor to the situation. He therefore advised the government to place emphasis on the export of processed food items rather than raw food export.
“Nigeria is the largest producer of yam tuber in the world, but Ghana export more yam tuber abroad than Nigeria. The Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology continued to emphasise post harvest handling and processing.
It is a shame that we are still exporting cocoa when we should be exporting chocolate, cocoa butter and other cocoa products. Malaysia is exporting 64 processed products of Palm oil. Here we cannot even produce palm oil for local consumption.”
However, the Nigerian Export promotion Council said it had put in place measures to put an end to the trend, saying an inter-agency committee had already been put in place to ensure compliance with international standards.
The committee is mandated to ensure a reverse in the temporary ban and restrictions on some Nigerian products and to stop rejection of products from Nigeria, by ensuring compliance with inspection procedures at borders and to build trust for the country’s exports.
They are also to ensure strict compliance and adherence to food and documentary entry requirements of the EU and other importing regions; continuously collaborate with related export agencies on awareness creation for exporters, conduct an audit of food and agricultural products exporters to revalidate their registration towards putting in place a traceability system for exporters and their products; as well as introduce a good code of practice for registered exporters to ensure best practices and serve as monitoring agency to ensure penalty for any defaulting exporter.
The Executive Director of the agency, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo said the move to engage other stakeholders was imperative in other to put Nigeria on the competitive edge in the global platform and to ensure that the country’s agricultural produce attain a zero level of rejection at the international market.
He said it is for the good of the nation for agencies of government and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to join hands together to achieve better synergy needed to put an end to the reoccurring decimal of rejection of Nigerian food items abroad.
Awolowo lamented that Nigeria, compared to other ECOWAS counties, is facing the most severe cases of rejection of exported goods, adding that the trend has economic consequences to producers and exporters of such goods.
He said that the reality of the dwindling oil revenue across the globe made it more imperative for Nigeria to begin to “think outside the box” and find a lasting solution in the non-oil sector as it used to be in the sixties up till the eighties.
Awolowo maintains that some drastic measures must be taken by government to forestall any more losses in the agriculture sector, if the prediction of the World Bank that developing countries could incur a potential loss of $6.9billion from rejection of exportable items in 2015 must be jettisoned.
“”Recent developments in the international economic and political scene have triggered a wake-up call on the need for us to reduce our over-dependence on oil and urgently diversify the economy. Since reaching the peak in June 2014, the price of crude oil has fallen by about 60 percent.
This is bad news for Nigeria. Agricultural products constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s non-oil exports, the total share of these products processed and unprocessed in value is as high as 70 percent.”
The Standards organisation of Nigeria (SON), which has a member in the inter agency committee, accused Nigerian exporters of rules violation, adding that they prefer to cut corners in their dealings.
At a forum in Abuja recently, the Director General of the agency, Dr Joseph Odumodu said that organised standardisation has now become an important element of infrastructure needed for the healthy growth of industry and commerce in all countries of the world, adding that insistence on standardisation is aimed at maximising overall economies of scale.
Sources at SON said the days of high rejection rate faced by Nigeria’s non-oil export goods at the international market will soon be over courtesy of SON’s internationally accredited microbiology laboratory.
The source lamented that for decades, exporters in the country have suffered financial losses, maintaining that the country has also lost a significant amount of economic revenue to product rejection.
Former Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga had lamented that the country’s image had been dented due to huge amount of rejects, maintaining that Nigeria, the giant of Africa still has to depend on Ghana to export its products to the world.
“It gladdens my heart that the laboratory’s accreditation is in the process of being expanded to cover areas of micro nutrient, cable, refrigeration and cement in construction material.