Concerned about the hurdles faced by Nigerian food exporters in the international market, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) has urged exporters to raise the quality of their products to meet specified standards.
Nigeria’s export products are often fraught with contaminants such as pesticide residues and other impurities, exceeding maximum levels permitted globally, Moji Adeyeye, NAFDAC director-general said, speaking on Quality and Safety of Export Food Trade at a virtual meeting with other federal government agencies.
She said the lack of quality, standard, certification, and appropriate packaging places Nigerian products in a disadvantaged position in a very competitive global market that is conscious of these standards.
In particular, she decried the incessant rejection of food and agricultural commodities from Nigeria by the United States and the European Union member countries on account of poor quality.
She urged all the regulatory agencies at the port saddled with ensuring high quality of imports and exports to find urgent and lasting solutions to Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) Border Rejection Notifications from the European Commission on products originating from Nigeria.
“The volume of food and agricultural commodities from Nigeria that is currently facing challenges at entry points in some countries in Europe and the United States where they have been repeatedly rejected and which has become a great issue of concern,” professor Adeyeye said.
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According to DG, NAFDAC is designated as World Trade Organization/Sanitary and Phytosanitary Enquiry Point in Nigeria on Food Safety to facilitate international trade and responds to inquiries on safety standards, regulations, and guidelines on food trade in Nigeria.
The Agency has over the years intervened to assist Nigerian exporters to meet international regulations.
Through these interventions, products are subjected to 100 percent pre-export testing and issuance of health certificates to products with satisfactory limits before the European Union further verify at their border control points.
Based on NAFDAC’s analysis, the RASFF alert from the EU most rejected products by the EU were smuggled out and not certified by NAFDAC or the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services at the ports, the DG said adding that this calls for proper collaboration and synergy amongst all agencies of government to curb the trend of some exporters and ensure only quality and certified products are exported.
‘’We need to close gaps and work together to prevent regulatory gaps from being exploited by unscrupulous traders and their collaborators. There must be convergence for all regulatory activities especially at the Ports of Exit as a starting point before we begin cleaning up and capacitating the honest operators and traders within the country,” she said.
The agency has embarked on sensitisation food processors, handlers, and exporters through training programmes on current food safety management requirements such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practises (GMP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), and Risk Analysis to ensure that products are safe and of good quality.
“Effective assessments of export products are very key and basic information that may need to be considered in the accompanying shipping documents include Certificate of Radiation, Health certificate, Sanitary, and Phytosanitary certificate, Evidence of fumigation of vessels and evidence of risk-based inspection on food safety. They must all be certified by the appropriate and designated competent authorities having current scope-testing accreditation’’, she said.