Despite concerted efforts by the government towards weening the nation’s economy from the oil-sector and turning to agriculture, local agro produce has continued to suffer rejections from the international market.
According to Dr. John Isemede, an expert in export and international markets, it is disheartening to note that the nation is losing out in agro-related subsectors, especially in the export market.
Speaking in an interview with The Nation, he recalled that there was no rejection before 1986, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised Nigeria to kill the commodity boards. The first rejection, he stated, occurred in 1988, saying that before this time, Nigeria was running commodity boards.
He said, “With the commodities board, it was one-stop shop, so there was no National Agency for Food, Drugs, Administration and Control (NAFDAC) or Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON). The only thing we had was Plant Quarantine, and Federal Produce Service. They were doing their job, side by side with the commodity boards. But the IMF advised us to kill the commodities board and introduced middle men. That is why we are having problem with quality today. Ghana has been able to put its own in order. There is what we call the Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), of which 2000 farmers in Kenya are registered.
Isemede said that the greatest problem the country has is lack of traceability, explaining that apple from South Africa or Lebanon for instance cannot only be traced back to the country, but also to the farm and even the tree.
The problem is not that the country cannot meet standards. The country can meet standards as long as it has experts and the products, he said. Isemede advised that for Nigeria to avoid further rejection in the international market there must be a link from the farmers to the processors, to the markets with a good tag of traceability, using agencies that are recognised worldwide to issue certificates.