The Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Prof Moji Adeyeye has decried the incessant rejection of food and agricultural commodities from Nigeria by the United States of America USA and the European Union member countries on account of poor quality.
She urged all the regulatory agencies at the port saddled with the responsibility of 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.
Speaking on Quality and Safety of Export Food Trade at a virtual technical roundtable meeting with other federal government agencies like Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development MARD, Foreign Portfolio Investments FPIS, Standard Organization of Nigeria SON, Nigeria Export Promotion Council NEPC, and Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria IPAN, amongst others, Prof Adeyeye lamented the resultant bad image the repeated rejection of commodities from Nigeria by the EU has caused the country.
In a statement by NAFDAC Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola, in Abuja on Sunday, Prof Adeyeye, noted that the stakeholders’ meeting was apt considering 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 of America where they have been repeatedly rejected and which has become a great issue of concern.
‘’ NAFDAC has a statutory responsibility to safeguard public health through the execution of its mandate. We are charged with the responsibility to regulate and control the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, bottled and packaged water, chemicals – generally referred to as NAFDAC regulated products.’’
According to her, NAFDAC is designated as World Trade Organization/Sanitary and Phytosanitary Enquiry Point in Nigeria on Food Safety to facilitate international trade, and respond to enquiries on safety standards, regulations, and guidelines on food trade in Nigeria.
Internationally, she said Nigeria’s products meant for export market are faced with presence of contaminants such as pesticide residues, notoriouslydichlorvos and other impurities, exceeding maximum permitted level and some with inadequate packaging and labeling which had caused a lot of products’ rejections in the global market.
She noted that the international market is competitive in nature and only welcomes products of high quality with relevant certifications and quality packaging that is environmentally friendly, to trade globally, stressing that the problem of quality, standard, certification, and appropriate packaging for made-in-Nigeria products destined for export has been an issue in the international market and there is need to address the issue of rejections.
The NAFDAC boss disclosed that the Agency has over the years intervened to assist Nigerian exporters to meet with international regulations thereby creating employment and earning foreign exchange for Nigeria.
Through this intervention by NAFDAC, she added that it was agreed that these products be subjected to 100% pre-export testing and issuance of Health Certificate to products with satisfactory limits before European Union further verify at their border control points.
Prof Adeyeye further disclosed that her Agency had analyzed the RASFF alert from the EU and observed that most rejected products by the EU were smuggled out and not certified by NAFDAC nor the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services at the ports, adding that this calls for proper collaboration and synergy amongst all agencies of government to curb the indecent behavior of some exporters and ensure only quality and certified products are exported.
‘’We need to close gaps and work together to prevent regulatory gaps being exploited by the unscrupulous traders and their collaborators. There must be a 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’’.
Based on the RASFF alert received from EU, she said NAFDAC had sensitized food processors, handlers and exporters through training programmes, workshops and seminars on current Food Safety Management requirements such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practises (GMP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), Risk Analysis to ensure that products are safe and of good quality, to gain consumers’ confidence and acceptability in Nigeria and international export markets.
‘’Effective assessments of export products are very key and basic information that may need to be consider 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, must all be certified by the appropriate and designated competent authorities having current scope-testing accreditation’’, she said.
She admonished the participants especially the MDAs, to be awake to their responsibility as the nation’s gatekeepers by ensuring the availability of quality-assured, safe, wholesome and efficacious products. The technical meeting attracted over sixty participants consisting of Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs, Private Sector, Shippers Council, Freight Forwarders and EU Delegation to Nigeria.
She remarked that ‘’We have a huge collective responsibility: to ensure the availability of quality-assured, safe, wholesome and efficacious products; and NAFDAC as an enquiring point for Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) for food safety, and other Departments and parastatals of FMARD for plants and animal health and safety with Standards Organisation of Nigeria for Technical Barriers in Trade; products and services for export should meet quality certification of the importing countries to avoid or reduce to barest minimum the rejection of made-in Nigeria products in the international market’’, she said.
‘’We should talk together, understand one another, agree to work together, and come up with a workplan for whatever we agreed to do together. We must turn a new leaf for the sake of our beloved country!’’, she insists.
In order to effectively address the problem faced in the international market, she explained that there is need for 3Cs: Coordination, Cognition, and Collaboration between all Government bodies involved in regulating exportation of semi-processed and processed food.