The Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Ilorin, Kwara State, and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) have trained some stakeholders in cocoa, cassava and leafy vegetables businesses on requirements in the international markets.
The south-west zonal training, in collaboration with Synergy Impact Consultants Limited, and with the support of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS), the Federal Produce Inspectorate Service (FPIS) and the Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria, was done at the zonal office if NSPRI in Akoka, Lagos.
The objectives of the interactive session with stakeholders included identifying knowledge gap in exporting cocoa, cassava and leafy vegetables in Nigeria; building an innovation platform for effective engagement among stakeholders; developing appropriate research themes to improve production and post-harvest handling of selected crops for exports and harnessing useful information from stakeholders for the development of a policy brief that will assist the government in making policies.
Dr. Patricia Pessu, Executive Director of NSPRI, explained that the institute was established for the quest for pest-free and safe agricultural commodities being exported from the west coast of Africa to Europe at the time it was established.
She added that the institute had since continued to work assiduously to maintain the quality of export crops and crops consumed locally through basic and applied research with the active engagement of stakeholders.
“Although a lot has changed since the creation of NSPRI, our responsibility to ensure that agricultural commodities being exported from Nigeria is of the acceptable standard has not in any way reduced.
“The current economic downturn in the country necessitates diversification of the economy and the need to take proactive steps in positioning agriculture as a source of foreign earnings,” she said.
Dr Folorunsho Olayemi, Director of Research Operations at NSPRI, said it was to equip stakeholders with knowledge and requirements for exports, which, in turn, would help galvanise the economy and create jobs.
“This training was held to help our farmers to access the international markets through farm produce. Nigeria has been doing exports of food and crops, but we have not been doing it right lately. Everywhere, our products are being rejected,” Olayemi said.
On factors causing rejection of Nigerian products abroad, he said good agricultural practices are not followed. Poor varieties of crops, excessive use of agro-chemicals in production and storage, unwholesome postharvest handlings and infestations are prominent causes of rejection.
Moruff Salami, Deputy Director, Product Development, NEPC, who represented the Director-General of NEPC, Segun Awolowo, said the country is blessed with agricultural resources, and these resources should be used to diversify the economy through product development, packaging and exports, that this would deepen production and food security.
Prof. Lateef Sanni, a resource person on cassava value chain and Project Manager of BASICS-II, IITA, also emphasised Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), quality product, attractive packaging, and export so that farmers can get more value for their labour and investments.
On the expected impact of the training on agribusinesses, farmers, processors and exporters of cocoa, cassava and vegetables, Prof. Sanni said: “In southwest Nigeria, cocoa, cassava and vegetables are dominant commodities. And recently, there is interest in export opportunities. Some individuals have been trying to export their commodities abroad, some have passed, and the majority did not pass.”
He argued that the rate of rejection of products of Nigeria origin in the international market necessitated involvement of exporters, farmers and other stakeholders to tackle the challenges by inculcating good agricultural practices.
The number one critical problem with beans is the pesticide residues, Sanni said, adding: “the amount of pesticide residues in those beans were too high; they were far above the WHO-approved standards. And the implication is that either at the level of farming, packaging or storage, some are adding too much quantity of those pesticides or insecticides.”
The same thing is applicable to yam, he said, saying, “Yam must not be allowed to sprout. And you have to package it well. Our neighbouring countries like Ghana are doing it. So, why would Nigeria not be able to do it?”