Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have blamed the poor standard of agriculture produce on government incompetence and weak policies.
Agriculture is the largest economic activity, contributes over 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product as well as employs about 70 per cent of the working population in Nigeria.
It has been seen by experts to have received inadequate attention from the government.
Recall, there had been challenges in the standard of agricultural produce in Nigeria.
One of such was the failed attempt to export yam to the United States in june 2017.
The yams were reportedly rejected due to poor quality, as they became spoilt even before reaching their destination.
Similarly, in November 2018, some individuals were caught using sniper to preserve their beans, using carbide to ripen bananas and some other fruits which is unsafe for consumption and detrimental to human health and the environment.
Findings by THE WHISTLER showed that lack of concerted effort among stakeholders have hindered effective control of farmers’ activities as well as standard of agricultural produce in Nigeria.
Speaking with THE WHISTLER, Yusuf Sule, a kaduna based Maize farmer said that the poor standard of agricultural produce in Nigeria is due to weak policies and negligence of the government.
He said that the government had yet to see the importance of the sector as well as give it the attention it deserves.
“I am a Maize farmer in Kaduna, and I don’t think there is any policy document governing the affairs of farmers in Nigeria that has been effective as it ought to be.
“And it’s not supposed to be so, everyday we see people move into Agriculture, especially farming, and produce items for either consumption or sales, without knowing what good agricultural practices are.”
He said there is need for the development of workable policies and coordinated body of specialised official dedicated to monitoring the activities of farmers on the farms.
Duke added that the COVID-19 pandemic has further thrown many Nigerians without the knowledge of good agricultural practice into farming.
“As a country, we are supposed to have a body with officials around the country, that inspects all farm activities and ensure that the right things are done both at the big farms and for those at the grassroots.
“Let’s look away from promoting standards only for products to be exported, but also look to ensure that the foods we consume locally are of the right standards.
“We need a workable policy to correct the errors of production in Nigeria, this really is not a huge task, but I think the government has not been too effective in this area. I think the government is yet to see the potentials and importance of the agriculture sector.”
Speaking on producing for export, Sule said, “We still have a lot to do. Fortunately, players in the various value chains are waking up to the task and making efforts to see that their produce are up to standard.
“Like we have Associations for each value chain, and to an extent they have been able to organise themselves and put control over their activities. We see people in their own little way doing what the government has failed to do.
“But it would have been better if the activities are coordinated at the Federal government level and cascaded to states and local government levels.
“So having a policy document and ensuring implementation and regulation of activities from seed planting through all aspect of production is a necessity for us.”
Also, the Director-General, National Agriculture Quarantine Service, Vincent Isegbe said that the issues around standard has posed setbacks to the nation’s ability to export Non-Oil produce.
“Nigeria which is among the top producers of agriculture goods has faced series of set back in exporting its Non-Oil produce as they are often below international standard,” he added.
In his comments, the President, National Association of Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers, Simon Irytwange, said that adopting a “Good Agricultural Practice” document remains the best way to curbing the poor activities of agriculture producers.
Irytwange citing the progress made in countries like Isreal, Kenya, Ghana among others said that these countries have developed and implemented the GAP guidelines over the years.
He said, “This very issue has been bothering me in particular. Sometime ago I came across an isrealite document on good agricultural practice which covers all activities in the farm, right form the seeds to be sown, to land preparation, harvesting and post harvet management.
“I also found out that in Kenya, South Africa and even Ghana also have their GAP document. So I engaged the Standard Organization of Nigeria on the need to develop a GAP document for our farmers, but it was not taken seriously.”
He said that efforts such as frequent orientation and educating farmers have been able to step up the activities of yam farmers in Nigeria.
“A lot has been done by the Yam Farmers Association, as a result of our continued advocacy to improve on the standard of yam produced in Nigeria
“The Zaki-Biam yam market in Benue state has been upgraded to one of the top international yam market with storage facilities, as issues around storage has been a major challenge to yam farmers and exporters.
“Also the Federal Government has established the yam estate facilities, yam conditioning centers, and we have seen more investments in value chain.
“The Association has divide its members into different clusters, which includes; consumption, processing and export, so everybody knows what they are producing for and each cluster have its own standard that each product must meet”.
“We have standard committee for yam tubers at the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, of which I am the chairman. We met and developed a document on Standard for yam production but the SON has refused to distribute or publish the document to the public domain.”
Nneji Emmanuel, of the NICERT Group, said that it has almost become a norm that goods produced in the country fall below standard compared to other countries.
“Our textile materials losses over 30 per cent value when compared with international market standard. It is time we begin to produce what is safe for both the domestic and international market”.
He stressed on the need for adequate preparation before export, adding that there is need for collaboration among stakeholders to regulate production processes and ensure that produce meet international standard.