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Sunday, 23 August 2015

EU BANS FOOD EXPORTS FROM NIGERIA!

Following the ban on Nigerian food export to European countries by the European Union, stakeholders have been lamenting its implications and have, in the same vein, been proffering solutions to forestall a recurrence, writes Olaseni Durojaiye



The ban on the export of agricultural produce from Nigeria by the European Union, which stakeholders insisted would cost the country’s export sector huge revenue loss, has continued to elicit lamentations beyond the shores of the country. Findings showed that some African shop owners in some European countries have started to count the cost of sourcing some of the banned products just as some industry stakeholders have blamed the ban on the penchant for cutting corners among Nigerians involved in export business.

Nigerian food export incurred the wrath of the European Union through the European Food Safety Authority when some of its beans export were found to contain between 0.03mg per kilogramme to 4.6mg per kilogramme of dichlorvos pesticides more than acceptable maximum residue limit of 0.1mg per kilogramme. The European Union Rapid Alert System for food reportedly discovered of excessive chemical contaminants like aluminium phosphide and dichlorvos in the food items which included beans, melon seeds, sweet potatoes, cashew kernels, nutmeg snails, soft drinks and sesame seeds.

Interestingly, THISDAY findings revealed that some of Nigeria’s West African neigbhours are the beneficiaries of the ban as African shop owners in the affected countries have turned to exporters from Ghana and Togo for some of the banned produce especially Palm Oil and Melon Seed even though at increased costs.

A response to THISDAY enquiry which was signed by Ksenija Simovic of the European Food Safety Authority’s Media Relations Communications and External Relations distanced the agency from the ban and stated that the decision was made at the EU level.

“However, we must inform you that this topic is not under the realm of EFSA work, as we are an independent authority providing scientific evaluations of products. These kinds of decisions are made at the EU level, not by us,” the response stated.

Reacting to the effects of the ban in an online interview with THISDAY, the proprietor of Afro Asian Caribbean Shop, Castlebar, Co.Mayo, Ireland, Mr. Ibrahim Anjorin, lamented that the cost of getting supplies of some of the banned products have increased since the ban, adding that he now depends on suppliers from some of Nigeria’s neighbours. He also stated that the ban has rendered African shops short of certain products.

“Generally, it has affected everyone, both the suppliers and the retailers because the ban has brought an extremely high cost to our imports. For example, the yams are now coming from Ghana, hot peppers are now coming from Uganda; even our palm oil has been banned. We now get most of the banned products through Nigeria’s neighbouring countries like Ghana and Togo,” Anjorin stated through WhatsApp.

The ban expectedly jolted the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) which blamed it on fraudulent shipping processes. Some industry stakeholders who spoke to THISDAY blamed the ban on the penchant for cutting corners among operators who oftentimes shunned due process.

NEPC, in a media report, also blamed the embargo on businessmen who invested in the sector without proper guidance, a development that corrupted the sector and compounded the country’s product integrity problem. It added that the sanction on food exports from the country to Europe was a further setback for Nigeria as a nation which needs to expand its export basket as a way of augmenting the decreasing revenue from the oil sector and boost activities in the domestic agricultural sector as well as create jobs.

Due to the ban and its implications, NEPC also announced measures to address the problem. Accordingly, the agency announced that it will initiate training programmes aimed at building a crop of knowledgeable exporters. According to the agency, the initiative was targeted at enhancing the integrity of Nigerian products by ensuring that prospective exporters are guided to approach the profession in a professional manner thereby reducing the incidence of unexecuted orders or rejects.

In a press statement signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the NEPC, Mr. Segun Awolowo, through which the agency announced its plans to forestall a recurrence, it stated that “The mentorship programme will address issues of product quality, export procedures and documentation and financing, payment terms and logistics in export trade.”

The statement attributed to the Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Mr. Segun Awolowo, stressed that the strategy to mentor Nigerians on how to become successful exporters was premised on the need to create inclusive growth in the sector by getting more people to be involved in the production of made in Nigeria goods for export.

However, stakeholders who spoke to THISDAY in separate interviews noted that the EU’s action was in order, adding that the ban was coming after series of warnings to operators in the sector. Speaking to THISDAY, President, Oyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), Adeniyi Ogunniyi, said the ban was unfortunate especially coming after series of warnings to the effect that Nigeria has to get its acts right if it must continue with food exports to European countries which have a sizeable population of Nigerians.

“It is very unfortunate that the ban is coming now and it boils down to the fact that we don’t seem to have standards. Every country in the export business is complying with the ISO 9001 certification standard; we can’t be any different if we want to play on that global stage, we must adhere to the agreed standard.

“The percentage of preservatives found in dried beans from Nigeria was found to contain four times more than what was required; every government has the right to protect its citizens’ food intake so I don’t blame the EU, rather I blame Nigerians for not following the due process and the preference for cutting corners,” Ogunniyi who stated that revenue loss arising from the ban will amount to millions of United States Dollars (USD).

Speaking in the same light, President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (MAN) Mr. Frank Jacobs noted that the problem arose from the refusal of Nigerian exporters to submit their products to due process adding that no responsible government would condone unwholesome or sub-standard food exports from other countries.

According to him, to forestall a recurrence, “Nigerian food product exporters must submit to due process, all food exports must be duly analysed to be certain that they meet the required standard,” Jacobs stated.

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