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The Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) has warned exporters of snails and other agricultural products, either for personal use or trade purposes, to subject the goods to quarantine inspection and certification before dispatch, noting that rejection of the country’s produce was embarrassing Nigeria.
NAQS’ Director, Animal Quarantine, Dr. Idris Dakat, at a press briefing at the weekend, reacted to a recent export fiasco in which 15 Nigerian giant land snails were impounded by US Customs and Border Protection at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas.
Dakat stressed that food and agricultural products that evaded local pre-export verification of conformity formalities are liable to enforced wastage abroad.
According to him, the snails were brought in by a Nigerian woman who initially did not declare them and had packed the snails into three Ziploc plastic bags along with beef and fresh leaves.
The US officials took the steps over concerns that the produce can cause a rare form of meningitis in human beings and was destroyed.
He pointed out that ‘’snail is a fast-rising export commodity and many countries have awakened to substantial risks of invasiveness and public health associated with its trade and introduction.
“This is why export enthusiasts interested in snail rearing and export should seek guidance from NAQS.
“Our agency has developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) which clearly outlines a list of requirements and standards applicable in different countries.”
He revealed that each country “has its own distinct and acceptable presentations of snails. The United Kingdom accepts both live and frozen snails provided that they are free from pests and diseases.
“On the other hand, the United States prohibits live snails into their country but accepts cleanly processed frozen snails.”
He underscored that it is, therefore, advisable for intending travellers and exporters to acquaint themselves with the specifics preferred in the target market.
Dr. Dakat regretted that the Nigerian woman did not seek clarity from NAQS on the sanitary requirements for snail export to the USA before travelling with the product.
To make matters worse, she bypassed the quarantine export control that would have put her in the straight and averted the unfortunate incident.
He emphasised that all countries require that agricultural products intended for export be certified safe and wholesome and covered by a valid export permit issued by the competent authority in the country of origin.
He added: “NAQS always ensures that all export-bound snails are properly processed in line with good hygienic practices. We check to see that the snails were cleaned multiple times, de-slimed with acceptable substances, parboiled, and effectively refrigerated/frozen to ensure that they are free of parasites and their eggs.
“NAQS officers are stationed at all ports to make certain that travellers do not depart with agricultural products in unacceptable forms and presentations and to ensure that agricultural products emanating from Nigeria are free from pests and diseases in line with international standards.”