Adherence to Best Practice Key to Penetrating Foreign Markets -Expert
Farmers, exporters and other stakeholders in the value chain of the agricultural commodity industry in Nigeria, have been urged to adhere to relevant international food code of practice and standards in order to guarantee a problem-free export of final produce.
Speaking at the Town and Gown Seminar of the Department of Biological Sciences, Covenant University, on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, the Acting Director, Business Support Services, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mrs. Margaret Eshiett, said that if SON’s Codes of Practice are properly implemented, key challenges in respect of cultivation, storage and export can be mitigated to a significant extent.
Mrs. Eshiett, who spoke on the theme “The Role of Standards in Ensuring Quality and Safety of Food Products,” noted that in the present era of multi-trade cooperation, system management certification has become a must for products or services with intent of penetrating the international market, as certified systems have more chances of scaling through the safe product or service test in the foreign markets.
She posited that some developed countries have made system certification a prerequisite for manufacturing and importing or exporting of products and services, which make the issue of standard a subject of importance from the very early stage of production.
“We have to develop systems, build capacity and drive enforcement if our desire to penetrate the international market must be realised. Failure to improve on existing principles will continue to block the access of our farmers, producers and businessmen to the global market,” she posited.
According to her, application of internationally approved standards help to avoid confusion and misunderstandings, especially when checking for food safety, and this food safety concern should be tackled through a ‘farm to fork’ approach.
She stated that the basic food safety requirements in all food product standards ranges from mycotoxins, pesticide residue, metallic contaminants, microbial contaminants, chemical contaminants, food additives (intentional and unintentional) and use of food grade packaging materials.
The Guest Speaker noted that to further enhance food safety in Nigeria, SON has initiated the establishment a National Technical Working Group (NTWG) which has been inaugurated to help come up with Good Agricultural Practice (G.A.P.) standards in Nigeria.
She posited that, partly, the objectives to establish the Nigerian G.A.P. standards was with the view to providing quality and safety requirements for agricultural produce, training and capacity building to help all stakeholders to be better skilled in matters related to food safety, farm produce and export.
While decrying the numerous challenges SON and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) face in their quest to meet the teeming demand for certification and standards, Mrs. Eshiett called upon universities and tertiary institutions of learning in Nigeria to ensure that they have laboratories that are of international standards to help cater for these needs by partnering with SON and NAFDAC.
Mrs. Eshiett highlighted finance and cost of developing and promoting standards, training and certification, capacity building, testing facilities, development of Nigeria G.A.P and benchmarking against global G.A.P and continued stakeholder’s enlightenment as well as sensitisation (workshops and Seminars) as key challenges affecting the driving and enforcement of standards and best practices.
At an interactive session, participants decried the continuous rejection of local commodities at the international market without taking into consideration the different climatic conditions that come into play in the manufacturing process. SON and NAFDAC were urged to create a united front towards helping local manufacturers compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.
The audience called for a better collaboration between SON, NAFDAC and other regulatory agencies in ensuring uniformity in the regulatory process in the quest to drive standard and quality.