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  • Agro exports need revamp to regain shine

    Sep 10th, 2015

    Amid increasing fears about food safety challenge affecting exports, the National Public Relations Officer of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Sotonye has called on the government to cut the contamination rate of agro export produce.

    This follows reports that international inspectors found samples in commodities which are high pesticide residues. According to him, the government needs to work with farmers’ organisations to find out where these products came from and take measures to tackle the situation.

    He said government agencies need to test samples of domestic and imported plant protection chemicals to ensure they meet safety standards.

    He urged the government to increase inspections and quarantines and test more samples of fruit and vegetables for the export market.

    Anga said improving the nation’s chances at the export markets will create an opportunity for a big revamp to the sector which is losing shine. He said exports of agro products are among the nation’s leading cash earners, but that the situation could turn upside down bringing the sector’s export value if nothing is done to address the issue of contamination.

    Some agro produce exporters, he noted, would make more money, but added that many export products have failed to meet the quality and hygiene standards of their foreign markets. With European Union (EU) warning that many agricultural and food products from the country violate food hygiene and safety standards, he urged operators to keep an eye on the contaminations in their exports.

    He said exporters would hurt themselves if they continued to do business in the old way, with old manners. He urged relevant agencies to implement measures to ensure food safety and hygiene, tracing the origin of foods of all kinds and focusing on essential farm produce. He urged that surveillance be tightened during production. He also urged that food production businesses be encouraged to meet international standards on food safety and hygiene such as ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points).

    He wants more to extend capacity on technical and phytosanitary barriers to international trade. He said some producers have encountered difficulties in accessing the European Union (EU) market. According to him, the government should redirect its strategies to boost international trade to include capacity building for producers, such as agronomists and farmers doing organic farming and addressing practices that hinder demand for indigeneous produce.

    Recently, stakeholders in the industry called for the establishment of a Cashew Board, to boost foreign exchange earnings and generate more jobs. They also appealed to the Federal Government to assist cashew farmers and processors through the provision of a special fund, to boost cashew production. NCAN President, Mr Tola Fasheru, decried the high cost of processing a ton of cashew. He said it costs $500 to process one ton of cashew, while it costs about $250 in India and $217 in Vietnam.

    He said for the industry to compete favourably with others, the government should set up a special fund for the industry.

    According to him, the sustainability and competitiveness of the sector may be a mirage if the government did not assist cashew farmers and processors.