The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has given an indication that the European Union (EU)’s ban on importation of dried beans, smoked catfish and other agricultural produce from Nigeria may soon be lifted.
Mrs Heather Akanni, the Technical Adviser on Quality Control and Standardisation to the Minister, Mr Audu Ogbeh, gave this assurance in an interview in Lagos yesterday.
Akanni spoke on the sidelines of the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) of the World Bank Assisted Projects’ Second Implementation Support Mission.
The EU’s ban became effective in 2015 after it found residues of harmful pesticides applied after harvest on dried beans exported by Nigerians.
Akanni said that the ministry had made progressive steps that may lead to the ban being lifted in the first quarter of 2019.
She said that improved standard and quality of the food consumed locally and exported internationally had become imperative since agriculture was becoming the country’s economy mainstay and a major foreign exchange earner.
According to the minister’s aide, the establishment of the quality control and standardisation department and Zero Reject Committee by the Federal Government, is to ensure production and consumption of wholesome foods that can increase foreign exchange earnings.
“It is within the context of the zero reject initiative, which is an inter-ministerial standing committee, to critically look into the beans sector to ensure that the ban on our beans is lifted.
“The zero reject initiative is supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and they also support the zero reject committee to produce a Conduit of Excellence as a case study on beans.
“We have produced an integrated export promotion plan aimed at processing the lifting of the ban on our beans. We have also published the guidelines for processing and export of beans.
“Once we get it right with beans, it will trickle down to other value chains; we are doing a lot and hope for sustainability, ‘’ she said.
Akanni, however, decried the ignorance level of many farmers who do not understand quality control and standardisation, adding that projects such as APPEALS would help to bridge such gaps.
Speaking on the viral video of a beans trader who was seen using sniper (a pesticide) as a preservative, Akanni said that it was unfortunate and showed that Nigerians were consuming poison.
The technical adviser said: “Mr Audu Ogbeh inherited the ban on beans and we are hoping that the ban is lifted in the first quarter of 2019.
“As we were doing that, we saw a gentleman using sniper to preserve beans. For us, it shows that we are even consuming poison; hence, we are scaling up the strategies on sensitisation of farmers.
“Most times, our farmers do these things out of ignorance and that is why we have engaged the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
“We have also engaged the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and the Federal Produce Inspectorate Services,’’ she said.
Akanni said that as there are no technologies to check the chemical content of beans at the market: “it is, therefore, advisable for consumers to cook their beans properly before consumption’’.