The Federal Government has inaugurated a 26-member Standing Inter-Ministerial Technical Committee to address the rejection of Nigeria`s dry beans by the European Union. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while performing the inauguration in Abuja on Tuesday, urged the committee members to work as a team to achieve the desired goal.
“It is my pleasure to welcome you to this important workshop for members of the Inter-Ministerial Technical Committee on Zero Reject of Agricultural Commodities and Produce/Non-Oil Exports. “We are here to take our destinies in our hands by finding lasting solution to incessant rejection of our agricultural commodities, especially in Europe.
“We need to avoid the embarrassment of further rejection in the future by strengthening our regulatory authorities to live up to their mandates. “Our desire for agricultural products and non-oil exports means there will be vigorous pursuit of investment in quality control and standardisation.
“In addressing this challenge, we are working with the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service to ensure safety of what we produce and consume locally and internationally, “ Ogbeh said. The minister urged members of the committee to carry out the assignment with unity of purpose and in the interest of the nation.
“We will get our desired result if this committee carries out its work diligently without fear or favour because there is demand for Nigeria`s product outside the country. “We are also working with other agencies on traceability; that is to know where the sub-standard goods are coming from. “
He, however, called on donor agencies to consider other gaps that could be filled to bring Nigeria`s agriculture to a loftier height. Mr Charles Malata, Chief Technical Adviser, UNIDO, said that the importance of the workshop and inauguration was to enable Nigeria to explore non-oil sector of the economy.
Malata said that the committee was set up because of the rejection of the country’s agricultural produce and commodities at the international market. “We have a project which is funded by EU and it has been running for two years. “Through the project, we have been addressing the issue of safety and good health in order to boost the competitiveness of Nigerian products.
“We appreciate what the Federal Government is doing towards the removal of the ban soon. “I urge the committee to take time to look at the issues that are challenging Nigeria to provide a roadmap to possible solutions to these challenges, “ he added.
In a keynote address, Head of Trade and Economics Section, European Union, Mr Filippo Amato, said that the ban was a wake-up call for the country to work toward achieving standards. He commended the Federal Government in setting up the committee to look at the rejection of Nigeria`s beans for containing high level of pesticides which were dangerous to human health.
He, however, reiterated EU`s support to the country in order to improve its compliance to meet standards and protect consumers` right. The EU announced import suspension measures in June 2015, which affected dried beans from Nigeria.
The suspension was supposed to lapse in June 2016 when the country was expected to provide “substantial guarantees that adequate official control system have been put in place “. The EU further extended the suspension to three years for alleged lack of seriousness by stakeholders to meet the dateline.
The committee members are from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service and Nigeria Export Promotion Council.