From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Director General of the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, has expressed disappointment over the ban on dried cowpea, noting that Nigeria is losing over $362.5m annually.
Dr. Isegbe who stated this recently at the inauguration of the members of the Standing Committee on Agro Zero Initiative, said Nigeria should restore conventional export control measures at all ports of entry to optimize its comparative advantage in agricultural commodities and diversify the economy.
In a statement by NAQS’ Head, Media, Communications and Strategy, Chigozie Nwodo, recently, he said that Nigeria was the largest producer of dried cowpea in the world, accounting for almost half of the global production.
He noted, however, that Nigeria was not among the top 10 leading exporters of dried cowpea in the world.
He pointed out that this sad paradox was essentially due to the absence of proper gatekeeping to ensure that commodities passed for export meet pesticide residue standards and other phytosanitary requirements.
“Lack of export quality guarantees and the resultant off-and on pattern of the export traffic of Nigerian dried beans was costing the country $362.5 in foreign revenue annually,” he said.
Speaking on the weak link in the bean value chain, Dr. Isegbe said that the ban was occasioned by an export control gap which allowed the shipping of dried beans with pesticide residues higher than the permissible threshold.
He mentioned that the results of the extensive fieldwork and laboratory analyses done by NAQS showed that the challenge of high pesticide residue in Nigerian beans was not nested in the farm.
He reported that the bean samples collected from the farms had low pesticide residues –beneath the maximum residue level (MRL) of Nigeria’s trading partners –while bean samples collected from the warehouses had high pesticide residues, above the MRL.
According to him, this wide differential indicates that high pesticide use is traceable to the bulk buyers, aggregators, and exporters.
In an attempt to protect their stock against weevils and other storage pests, these set of actors usually lace their beans with pesticides liberally; thereby, raising the pesticide residues in the commodity above the MRL and unwittingly rendering them ineligible for export.
He remarked that NAQS was carrying out an intensive public awareness on the dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides.
He said that the agency’s message on integrated pest management, the proper use of pesticides, and good agricultural practices (GAP) is breaking through to farmers, offtakers, warehouse owners, and exporters in the beans producing belt and across the country.
He expressed hope that a shift away from synthetic pesticides to biopesticides and organic agriculture among agricultural value chain players will bring the country closer to the point when Nigeria can dominate the global cowpea market and other markets where the nation can assert its comparative advantage.