Urgent Call: Over 70% of Nigeria’s Food Exports Rejected Abroad – A Wake-Up Call for Stricter Safety Measures

Food Exports
A typical example of an informal food market in Nigeria … Photo credit: Juicy Update

Over 70% of Nigeria’s Food Exports Rejected Abroad – A Wake-Up Call for Stricter Safety Measures

The issue of food safety is of paramount importance in any nation. It not only affects the well-being and health of citizens but also has a significant impact on a country’s economic progress and its standing in international trade.

In Nigeria, this concern has gained prominence as over 70 per cent of food exports from the country are rejected abroad.

This alarming figure has prompted the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) to join forces and advocate for the establishment of policies and regulations that will drive high food safety standards.

During the third workshop on ‘Food and Feed Expertise Coordination’ held in Abuja, experts emphasized the critical need to address this issue.

Dr Tayo Aduloju, the CEO-designate of NESG, stressed the significance of Nigeria’s commitment to upholding the highest food safety standards.

He highlighted that with over 70 million hectares of agricultural land, Nigeria possesses immense potential for economic growth and development.

However, to fully harness this potential, effective regulatory, institutional, and policy frameworks are imperative.

Dr Aduloju’s sentiments resonate with the broader goal of safeguarding public health and ensuring the integrity of agricultural produce.

The global landscape is continually evolving, and in such a dynamic environment, efficient food and feed safety systems are indispensable.

It not only builds consumer confidence but also positions Nigeria favourably in international trade, especially in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA) agreement.

Dr. Emmanuel Odu, Senior Special Advisor to the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, emphasized that citizens deserve access to nutritious and safe food.

He outlined the Ministry’s plans to validate the revised National Policy on Food Safety & Quality and its Implementation Plan for 2023.

Additionally, they intend to launch the first National Integrated Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Surveillance and Response. These measures are part of a deliberate effort to attain the required National Health Security Status in Nigeria.

The revised policy aims to address emerging areas, enhancing regulatory, enforcement, and data-gathering systems.

This will result in a more effective, efficient, and robust framework. Simultaneously, the guidelines will play a pivotal role in establishing a roadmap for integrated surveillance of foodborne diseases and protocols for responding to food safety emergencies.

Kent Sisson, President of the Food and Agriculture Export Alliance (FAEA), underlined the organization’s collaborative efforts with Nigerian government agencies responsible for ensuring the safe production and consumption of food and animal feed.

He also highlighted their partnerships with key stakeholders including the USDA, USAID, the University of Missouri, and the NESG. Such collaborations signify a collective commitment to enhancing food safety standards in Nigeria.

The workshop, organized by the USDA, NESG, FAEA, University of Missouri (MU), and Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, aimed to propel the action plan formulated in the previous workshop held in December 2022.

New Technical Working Groups (TWGs) were established to provide the necessary expertise and leadership in fostering effective communication, capacity-building, and strategic partnerships among stakeholders.

Considering the vital role of food in the health and well-being of Nigerians, this three-day workshop builds on the foundation laid by last year’s Food and Feed Safety Transformation Dialogue.

During that event, stakeholders called upon the government to enact the National Food Safety and Quality Bill into law.

This legislative step is seen as crucial in ensuring comprehensive food safety and quality standards in the country.

The United States, drawing from its own experiences in implementing the US Food Safety Modernization Act, offered valuable insights and guidance for Nigeria’s food safety agenda.

The Food Safety Committee, after the workshop, provided directions to the TWGs on delivering constructive feedback to inform regulatory decisions.

The collaborative efforts of the USDA, NESG, and other stakeholders are pivotal in addressing the pressing issue of food safety in Nigeria. The high rate of rejected food exports highlights the urgency of establishing robust policies and regulations.

By prioritizing food safety standards, Nigeria not only safeguards the health and well-being of its citizens but also strengthens its position in the global market.

The steps taken in this direction, including the revision of policies and the launch of integrated guidelines, reflect a proactive approach to attaining a higher level of national health security. It is through such concerted efforts that Nigeria can emerge as a leader in ensuring food safety and quality.

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