The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has charged farmers and agro-processors dealers to mainstream the issue of food safety in their agricultural production as Nigerians deserve good, safe and quality agro-outputs for consumption and to meet world standards and international best practices.
He gave the charge in his keynote address at the south-west nationwide advocacy on agricultural quality control and standardisation across the six geopolitical zones held in Lagos.
“There is no better time than now to mainstream food safety into agricultural production if we want to really diversify our economy using agriculture as a veritable tool and have our own share of the export at both regional and international markets.
Nigerians also deserve good, safe and quality agro-outputs for consumption and should be globally accepted like their counterparts across the globe” the Minister stated.
Ogbeh, who was represented by the Coordinating Director, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine services, Dr. Vincent Isegbe, noted that previous efforts of the ministry had hitherto been geared towards increased cultivation and output per unit area with less emphasis on quality and standards of agro- produce, stating that the ban on dry beans from Nigeria by the European Union had now shifted attention to standards and quality in order to avoid incidences of communicable diseases in the country more so to earn foreign earnings that will boost the Nigerian economy.
He said the nationwide advocacy on quality control and standardization of agricultural commodities was to target farmers and other stakeholders along the food value chain so as to inculcate the culture of agro- quality among key policymakers in both public and private institutions and to recognise the essential role of food safety in the production, preparation, manufacturing, packaging ,distribution, storage,sale of food and food products as well as agro produce export promotion.
The Minister maintained that as part of government’s initiative to aid aggregation, certification standardisation and traceability, commodities certification centres would be established across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
He commended stakeholders for their efforts in stemming the negative trend and for being agents of change towards quality consumption and zero rejection of Nigeria’s agro- produce.
The Governor of Lagos state, Mr Akinwumi Ambode in his opening speech said the state would continue to align herself with the Federal governments’ vision of making agriculture a revenue Base of the country.
The governor who was represented by its commissioner for Agriculture, Oluwatoyin Suarau highlighted several initiatives and achievements recorded by the state to grow the nation’s agricultural sector which include state,s collaboration with kebbi state on rice processing, Lake rice; empowerment scheme;fisheries and aquaculture development; Lagos state coconut development authority among others.
The Minister of industry, trade and investment, Dr Okechkwu Enelamah who was represented by the director, Federal produce inspectorate, Mr Akabueze Michael urged stakeholders at the workshop to leverage the knowledge gained to achieve zero reject of the country’s agro-product.
In a goodwill message,the Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadizah Bala Usman who was represented by Mr Innocent Umar said her organisation was ready to assist in transforming Nigeria from dependence on oil dollar to agro- dollar, adding that NPA had dedicated some port terminals in Lagos such as Ikorodu and lily pond terminals as export terminals .
The nationwide advocacy train which is in the South West, Lagos state, took off in North West Kano state followed by North Central in Benue state, south-east in Enugu state and will proceed to the south-south and North East zones at later dates.
Part of highlights of the event was the presentation of intervention materials by the Minister of Agriculture to support Nigerian farmers.
The intervention materials included magnetic net, aflansafe kits, tomato crates and moisture meters.