Enhancing standards to reduce rejection of Nigerian products in global market

Nigerian exporters often suffer losses resulting from rejections at the borders of destination countries.

The European Food Safety Authority  rejected beans from Nigeria in 2015 because it contained between 0.03mg per kg and 4.6mg/kg of dichlorvos pesticide, when the acceptable maximum residue limit was 0.01mg/kg. The ban has been extended to 2019, which shows that Nigerian food processors and exporters are yet to change.

A Nigerian businessman recently exported cans of 35cl malt drink numbering into hundreds of thousands to Kenya. The products were on display in the East African country until they caught the attention of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), which subjected them to measurement tests. The products were subsequently found to be 32cl, rather than 35cl.  The KEBS withdrew them from the Kenyan market, banning the malt drink—including its supplier—from the country for good.

“Technical regulations, standards and procedures for determining conformity have increasingly become important drivers of market access for non‐oil export,” Olu Alaba, a trade policy expert, said at the Policy Development Facility (PDF) II on non-oil export symposium held in Lagos.

Alaba said conformity to standards is key to market access, adding that  collaboration between the public sector and reputable private institutions is inevitable as the easiest route to overcoming international market access constraints.

“Collaboration, not competition, is key to ensuring credibility of Nigerian products in the international market MSMEs can lean on credibility of voluntary certification institutions to exploit expanded market entry opportunities,” he added.

Vincent Isegbe, coordinating director, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), identified absence of phytosanitary certificate and lack of additional declaration as two among many reasons why Nigerian goods are rejected.

“Even if you have everything in place, the exporter will like you to give him additional information, such as date of harvest and others. Again, if the commodity has a quarantine pest in it, your products will be rejected. There was a case where pest was found in one container and 50 or more containers were put on hold,” Isegbe said.

He explained that it is important to get a product’s botanical name, rather than its local name, when doing an export business.

“If you carry vegetables and it is yellowish or look weak, the destination country may reject the vegetables. Some countries are non-conforming and Nigeria is one of them. If a container is coming from Nigeria, even if they find out that the contents are clean, they will still express some doubt,” he disclosed, urging exporters to begin to restore the confidence of destination countries to Nigerian products.

Simidele Onabanjo of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) argued that exporters evade the agency’s processes without knowing that there are no fees attached to scrutiny of most export products by the body.

“A lot of chemicals are used during production, processing, transportation, which is why if you do not go through the right process, your products may be rejected,” she added.

Simeon Umukoro of the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, said trust will begin to exist when Nigeria can certify all products.

Umukoro urged exporters to identify private regulatory bodies that can help them navigate through the hurdles and meet regulatory requirements, adding that through the efforts of the NQI, Nigeria now has a metrology institute in Enugu, South-East Nigeria, which can service the whole of West Africa.

John Isemede, a trade consultant and former director-general of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), urged regulatory agencies to be sincere with exporters.

“Do we have export policies and programmes? All the government agencies, including the Customs, are interested in exports. We have to change,” he said.


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