• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Incompetence in governance, poor policies seen eroding quality of agric produce

agric produce

Incompetence in government coupled with weak policies have been seen as responsible for poor standard of agriculture produce, which explains huge amount of export rejects Nigeria has experienced in recent time.

Agriculture, the largest economic activity in Nigeria, contributes over 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as employs about 70 percent of the working population in Nigeria has been seen by experts to have received inadequate attention from the government.

According to Vincent Isegbe, director-general, National Agriculture Quarantine Service, issues around standard have posed setbacks to the nation’s ability to export non-oil produce.

“Nigeria, which is among the top producers of agriculture goods, has faced series of setback in exporting its non-oil produce as they are often below international standards,” Isegbe says.

Speaking with BusinessDay, Yusuf Sule, a Kaduna-based maize farmer, states that the poor standard of agricultural produce in Nigeria is due to weak policies coupled with negligence of the government.

“I am a maize farmer in Kaduna, and I don’t think there is any policy document governing the affairs of farmers in Nigeria, or if there is any, it has not been effective as it ought to.

“And it is not supposed to be so, every day we see people move into agriculture, especially farming, and produce items for either consumption or sales, without knowing what good agricultural practices are,” Sule says.

He harps on the need for the development of workable policies and coordinated body of specialised official dedicated to monitoring the activities of farmers on the farms, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has further thrown many Nigerians without the knowledge of good agricultural practice into farming.

“As a country, we are supposed to have a body with officials around the country that inspect all farm activities and ensure that the right things are done, both at the big farms and for those at the grassroots,” he says.

Recall that in June 2017, Nigeria recorded failed yam export that was reportedly rejected due to poor quality, and having got rotten even before reaching its destination.

Similarly, in November 2018, Snipper – an insecticide – was reportedly used by some people to preserve beans, making the product unsafe for consumption and detrimental to the environment.

“Let’s look away from promoting standards only for products to be exported, but also look to ensure that the foods we consume locally are of the right standards,” he states.

“We need a workable policy to correct the errors of production in Nigeria, this really is not a huge task, but I think the government lacks the will power. I think the government is yet to see the potentials and importance of the agriculture sector,” the maize farmer argues.

Speaking on producing for export, he says, “We still have a lot to do. Fortunately, players in the various value chains are waking up to the task and making efforts to see that their produce are up to standard.

“Like we have Associations for each value chain, and to an extent they have been able to organise themselves and put control over their activities. We see people in their own little way doing what the government has failed to do.

“But it would have been better if the activities are coordinated at the Federal Government level and cascaded to states and local government level.

“So, having a policy document and ensuring implementation and regulation of activities from seed planting through all aspect of production is a necessity for us.”

Simon Irytwange, president, National Association of Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers, in a response, states that adopting a “Good Agricultural Practice” document remains the way to curb the poor activities of agriculture producers.

Irytwange, citing the progress made in countries like Israel, Kenya, Ghana, among others, says these countries have developed and implemented the good agricultural practice (GAP) Guidelines over the years.

“This very issue has been bothering me in particular. Sometime ago, I came across an Israeli document on GAP, which covers all activities in the farm, right form the seeds to be sown, to land preparation, harvesting and post-harvest management.

“I also found out that in Kenya, South Africa and even Ghana also have their GAP document. So, I engaged the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on the need to develop a GAP document for our farmers, but it was not taking seriously,” he laments.

Efforts such as frequent orientation and educating of farmers have been made to step up the activities of yam farmers in Nigeria, he states.

“A lot has been done by the Yam Farmers Association as a result of our continued advocacy to improve on the standard of yam produced in Nigeria. The Zaki-biam Yam Market in Benue State has been upgraded to one of the top international yam market with storage facilities, as issues around storage have been a major challenge to yam farmers and exporters.

“Also, the Federal Government has established the yam estate facilities, yam conditioning centres, and we have seen more investments in the value chain.

“The Association has divided its members into different clusters, which include; consumption, processing and export. So, everybody knows what they are producing for and each cluster has its own standard that each product must meet.

“We have standard committee for yam tubers at the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), of which I am the chairman. We met and developed a document on Standard for yam production but the SON has refused to distribute or publish the document to the public domain.”

Nneji Emmanuel of the NICERT Group states that it has almost become a norm that goods produced in the country fall below standard compared to other countries.

“Our textile materials lose over 30 percent value when compared with international market standards. It is time we begin to produce what is safe for both the domestic and international markets,” he notes.

He stresses on the need for adequate preparation before export, adding that there is need for collaboration among stakeholders to regulate production processes and ensure that produce meet international standards.