Curbing export rejects through improved standards


International trade is vital to the growth of any economy. Nigeria’s economy has been largely serviced by foreign exchange earned from crude oil sales.

The present administration, on various occasions, has vowed to continue to move the country away from monolithic economy to one in which foreign exchange is earned from diverse sources.

Speaking at the 27th Annual National Conference of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, President  Muhammadu Buhari, has said there is a need to sustain the diversification of the economy already achieved by this administration.

Represented at the event by the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, said that a national development plan has been generated to respond to the challenges of a mono-economy.

He said the two broad objectives of the plan is leveraging on various growth sectors, strengthening linkages and enhancing value chain.

One of the sectors expected to drive this agenda is agriculture and the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr Ernest Umakhihe says emphasis is being placed on adding value to agro products before exporting them.

He spoke at the 45th Regular Meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD) in Jos, Plateau State.

Experts say this target faces one major challenge—the rejection of produce from Nigeria by the international market.

Some of the reasons cited for the rejections are food safety, technical barriers, non-adherence to best practices and disregard for basic requirements.

Nigeria being faced with a lot of economic challenges as experienced globally by other nations cannot just relax and allow this other way of earning foreign exchange from its products at the global markets to slip it by, without ensuring that critical measures are taken to harness this advantage.

The Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, Dr Ezra Yakusak has acknowledged this shortcoming, saying that the Council was poised to address it holistically.

“Packaging and labelling is also a key factor that determines the sustainability of products in the foreign market.

“The problem of quality, standard, certification and appropriate packaging for Made-in-Nigeria products destined for export has been an issue due to lack of awareness.

“In fact the international market in its competitive nature will only welcome products of high quality with relevant certifications and quality packaging that is environmentally friendly,” the media recently quoted him as saying.

According to him, the international market is so competitive that any little detail that is not fixed can cause the exporting country several billions of dollars and discourage exporters from patronising products from that country in the future.

“In most cases, packaging has often been approached from the view point of providing safety for the product thereby neglecting the other qualities such as the aesthetics and design nature of the packaging itself.

“The market world has changed systematically giving more preference to products with good packaging system/certifications and edging out producers without certification,” he said.

Similarly Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC),  said, over 76 per cent of Nigeria’s exported agricultural commodities are rejected in Europe for not meeting required standards.

Adeyeye, while speaking on measures taken to improve the country’s agricultural product exports, said the agency got the feedback through its rapid alert systems.

“We’ve got to work hard to show that we love this country to the extent that we will not bring disgrace to the country from outside.

“When somebody saves money, gets loans or whatever, exports an agricultural product and that product is rejected, it breaks my heart,” she said.

Mrs Adeyeye said it is important for exporters to respect regulatory procedures of NAFDAC and Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) when processing their export farm produce for export.

“So the people that are exporting are either taking shortcuts or they’re being deceived that their products are okay, just ship it, we will take care of it,” she said in a recent media report.

She, therefore, appealed to commodity exporters to work closely with relevant authorities such as NAFDAC and NEPC to ensure that the chance of their products being rejected abroad was drastically minismised.

“I am pleading with all exporters, and MSMEs who want to export to please come to NAFDAC to make sure their products meet international market standards,” she said.

In addition, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the Federal Government was doing everything possible to ensure that products being exported from Nigeria were not rejected abroad for not meeting health safety standards.

Ehanire, spoke in Lagos State during the opening of a six-day training for members of the National Codex Committee on Food Safety Risk Analysis and the revised NCC procedural manual organised in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

He said the Federal Government had taken steps “to ensure protection of food safe also to ensure fair practice in international food trade.”

“We have been hearing of rejection of our products; it is because there’s no adherence to standards, and this is not giving the country a good image.

“It’s affecting us economically; tourism wise and in every other aspect,” he said.

Malam Farouk Salim, Director-General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), said the Organisation has raised the standards to check the rejection faced by Nigeria’s agricultural commodities in global markets.

The move according to the standards body is apt and timely to make Nigeria agro commodities competitive at the international markets, especially with the introduction of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)

According Salim, Nigerian goods are rejected, because they fail standard procedure locally before being exported.

“Exporters do not check the standards of the country they are exporting to.

“So as long as our exporters ignore our standards they will have their products rejected. If they follow due procedures; we are here to partner and assist them to make sure that their products are accepted globally.”

“If the exporters come through us and they follow the standards of our country and they follow the standards of the country they are exporting to, they will have no problem of rejection,” he said.

Dr Vincent Isegbe, Director-General, NAQS, urged exporters to take advantage of experts in his agency to reduce the losses they incur due to the rejection of their products abroad.

“Commodities leaving Nigeria must be signed and certified by the Service to get the Phytosanitary Certificate.

“As custodians of rules and regulations concerning plants and products, we have power to exercise our obligations towards all those international protocols”, he said.

As exporters seek to leverage on the international market to project Nigeria’s products and maximise profit, it will benefit them to key into Federal Government’s policies to ensure their products is of top quality.