Nigeria is well known as a country with large expanse of Arable Land. There is no part of Nigeria that doesn’t have the capacity to produce at least one agricultural commodity in commercial quantities. The expectation should be that the Nigerian economy thrives on export proceeds of the agricultural commodities. However, the reverse is the case.
Why is the global commodity not seeking our agricultural commodities in large quantities, why is agriculture not a major source of our export revenue?
One major answer to these questions is that the Global community thrives on standards and quality assurance when food or consumable commodities are considered. The fear of carcinogens and other toxic substances have driven the global community to set strict criteria and standards for agricultural products to be consumed by Humans and Animals.
Nigeria has constantly fallen short of most of these standards making some of our agricultural commodities unexportable.
In 2015, the European Commission on Health and Food Safety put a one-year ban on the importation of Nigerian Beans as it was seen to have contained quantities of non-authorised pesticide (dichlorvos). This Ban was later extended to 3 years as the Commission stated that it will take a while for Nigeria to export non-authorised pesticide free beans to the EU. Despite this ban the Commission noted that dried beans from Nigeria containing this pesticide was still being imported into the EU. (European Commission, 2016).
Aflatoxin (Aspergillus flavus toxins) are poisonous substances produced by some fungi (molds) on crops, foods and feeds. They live in soils and decayed materials. When their spores are released, they infect crops on farms, produce in stores and processed products. Groundnut is the most common Host of Aflatoxin making it very toxic for human consumption in the long run. Nigeria has the highest limit for Aflatoxin permitted in groundnut at 20 μg/kg, while Canada and Australia have a limit of 15 μg/kg for all nuts and United States permit a maximum of 4 μg/kg in any commodity consumed by humans (Vabi et al., 2018). Looking at these figures we can see that the standard permitted in Nigeria is not acceptable in the above-mentioned countries making it impossible to export the Nigerian groundnut to these countries.
Groundnut and Beans are only two out of a list of Nigerian commodities on the ban list of several countries, either due to toxic properties or poor production practices.
How can Nigeria work towards achieving acceptability of its commodities in other countries?
Matching Local Criteria to Global Standards
There is a need to review the standardisation level of consumable commodities in the country not only for export purposes but for the health and standard of living of its citizens.
These reviewed agricultural certification figures should reflect the global standard in order to ensure these commodities become acceptable in the global community.
Sensitization and Education of all Agricultural Commodity stakeholders
This is very important because it is not enough to match the global standards if the man producing the commodity lacks the required knowledge. Sensitization programs should be thorough and constant in order to notify these stakeholders about the importance of healthy agricultural practices and the dangers of unhealthy practices.
Enforcement of Global Standards
Once the global standards have been reviewed and all stakeholders have been adequately sensitised, then enforcement comes into play. Every Agricultural commodity sold and consumed in Nigeria should carry a seal of approval indicating that these commodities met these global standards. Manufacturing companies should be penalised for not getting these approvals, while markets and stores are also penalised for selling commodities without the proposed stamps or seals of approval. Commodities bound for export that do not have these seals of approval at the point of export should be destroyed immediately and their owners penalised.
Partnerships with Global Standardisation Agents
These agents are involved in setting these global standards which are used all over the word as a reference point. They are willing to partner with any country that supplies agricultural commodities to their country to review production practices and make recommendations. Creating such partnerships will ensure that the Nigerian Certification community has access to the ever-changing demands in quality control by the global community, thus improving our chances of getting our agricultural commodities approved and exportable.
These practices will gradually restore the faith of the global community in our agricultural commodities and eventually the ban on these commodities will be lifted. This will lead to an influx of revenue through the Agriculture sector into the Nigerian Economy.
FOR LAGOS COMMODITIES AND FUTURES EXCHANGE
Dr. Allwell Umunnaehila (Head, Operations) and Nkechi Obi (Corporate Affairs)