Minister task farmers on quality products, foreign exchange earnings

As part of measures to avoid fungal contamination, protect public health and secure more markets for Nigeria’s agro-commodities, the Minister of State, Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has challenged farmers and other stakeholders to always carry out periodic examination of their products.
 Speaking in Bayelsa State at a one-day stakeholders’ sensitization workshop on the effects of mycotoxins on agricultural commodities, health and trade, the Minister said it is imperative for farmers and governmental agencies to adapt a better method to prevent fungal contamination of agricultural commodities during growing period, storage, handling,processing and transportation.
 The Minister explained that over the years  Nigeria’s agricultural products had been exposed to pesticide residues and mycotoxins-producing fungal, resulting in several rejections of some Nigeria’s agricultural produce by some trading partners, particularly the European Union (EU).
He noted that the risk of mycotoxins may affect growth performance and could be hazardous to consumers by reducing the quality of products and its market value, thereby resulting in commodity rejection in the international market.
 In a statement obtained from the Ministry’s website, Aishat Onusi quoted the Minister as saying “These poisonous toxins produced by certain species of fungi, have profound adverse effects on the health of animals and humans, as they consume food from crops, poultry products, meat and fish infected by mycotoxins and have resulted in the cause of human and animal illnesses and deaths.”
The Minister called on farmers and other stakeholders along the food value chains to note that Nigeria has a tropical climate with an all year round high temperature and relative high humidity, adding that this peculiarity provides good conditions for the growth of toxigenic molds.
 He said: “The only way out from the adverse effects of these climatic factors on agricultural produce is to apply best agricultural practices at all material times.”
   Meanwhile, Lokpobiri has reiterated Federal Government resolve to collaborate with farmers in Bayelsa State in a bid to boost  Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.   
  Represented by his Senior Advisor (Administration), Enene Ambah, Lokpobiri charged participants at the workshop to convey and spread the information on the negative and detrimental effects of consuming moldy products to the grassroots,
 Earlier in his welcome remarks, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Shehu Ahmed represented by the Coordinating Director, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service in the Ministry, Dr. Vincent Isegbe said that the workshop was organized to educate farmers, food handlers and all other relevant stakeholders in the agricultural sector on the harmful effects of mycotoxin contaminants to agricultural commodities and its consequential effects on animal and human health.
  Representative of UNIDO at the workshop – Prof. Abimbola Uzomah said the unusual high level of mycotoxin is the cause of rejection of Nigeria’s agricultural products by the European Union (EU) and other countries.