By Steve Agbota
THE extension of the ban on export of dried beans from Nigeria for the next three years by the European Food Safety Authority under European Union (EU) may cost Nigerian farmers an estimated $10 billion loss annually.
In June 2015, the ban was imposed on some agricultural produce, including beans, from Nigeria, on the grounds that they contained high level of pesticides considered injurious to human health. The rejected beans were found to contain between 0.03 mg per kilogramme to 4.6 mg per kilogramme of dichlorvos pesticide, when the acceptable maximum residue limit is 0.01mg per kilogramme.
The ban was to last till June 30, 2016, to give Nigerian authorities time to provide an export control plan and assurance that the beans exported to European countries comply with the EU minimal risk levels for hazardous substances.
Relevant agencies of government, including SON, NAFDAC and Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, had claimed to be collaborating with one another to resolve the issue before the deadline, yet it had remained unresolved. Before now, the ban has already brought about a huge loss in the sense that Nigeria has a lot of farmers producing beans,which is not allowed to go out.
Stakeholders and consumers are worried that Nigeria might experience scarcity of beans if government fails to persuade EU to reverse the ban placed on the product, as farmers may avoid going into production of the produce by diverting to other crops that will enrich their purse. They also said that no farmers can produce a product for three years without making any income and continue therein.
The Coordinating Director of the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, Vincent Isegbe, who announced the ban extension on beans recently, lamented that the extension came when the Federal Government and its relevant agencies were working to ensure that the June deadline to lift the ban was met.
He said the continued presence of dichlorvos (pesticide) in dried beans imported from Nigeria and maximum residue levels of pesticides show that compliance with food law requirement as regards pesticide residual cannot be achieved in the short term.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the Group Executive Chairman, Afro Dimension Company Limited, Kabir Bawa, said that the ban is all about politics, that Nigeria cannot meet the substandard is not true, adding that there are some people from other countries doing everything to benefit from the ban.
He said the Customs, NAFDAC and all the government agencies need to sit down and see how they can find solution to the problem, saying that Nigerians in Diaspora are really suffering because they could not have access to beans produced in Nigeria.
He added: “Every Nigerians want to eat beans because it is cheapest most nutritious food available to the common man. Beans is consumed by Nigerians in Europe and there is nowhere they can get that beans. So what other countries are doing now is to make it so hard for Nigeria to be sending it to them, so that in their own end, they can farm it and make it to Europe.
“Government should go beyond the standard issues. The dichlorvos in beans they are talking about, our company has found solution to that and our products can compete globally. Our packaging can go to Europe and America to compete with their goods there. So there are some nationals from the other parts of the world that benefit from the ban because they are trying to grow the product and make it to European countries.
“I am a living witness. Some people came to Nigeria and they got some seedlings of cabbage and they are taking it to their own country to grow, just like Malaysia came to get our palm oil tree seedlings and now they are the biggest of palm oil producer in the world. I think that is what they are trying to do in this aspect. Government should not fold its hands and wait for this thing to happen.”
He said government needs to be proactive in the area of processing, storage capacity, saying that it is not about government giving more money to farmers to producing because Nigeria has enough, but storage capacity and how to preserve them is the problem, which government must tackle. He lamented: “If you go to Benue, you will see a lot of foods and fruits getting damaged. What have we done to preserve this?”