The Federal Government has embarked on aggressive nationwide advocacy to address the “culture of quality’’ in the agriculture sector.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed this at the Advocacy on Agricultural Quality Control and Standardisation in the South-West in Lagos on Friday.
The minister, who was represented by Dr Vincent Isegbe, the Coordinating Director, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS), said that the advocacy was to factor food safety into agricultural production procedures.
“There is no better time than now to mainstream food safety into agricultural production if we really want to diversify our economy, using agriculture as a veritable tool, and also have our own share of food exports at both regional and international markets,’’ he said.
Ogbeh said that the advocacy was a result of the eye-opening experience of the ban on dry beans from Nigeria by the European Union (EU).
He said that the ban had made the ministry of agriculture to be aware of the need to be mindful of standards and quality, so as to avoid incidences of non-communicable diseases in Nigeria.
“I learnt that between July 2016 and June 2017, about 48 notifications were received from the EU on our export goods (nuts and seeds or fruits and vegetables), due to aflatoxin and many other contaminants (either biological or chemical).
“Previous efforts of the ministry were only geared toward increased cultivation and output per unit area, with less emphasis on the quality and standards of our produce.
“Nigerians deserve good, safe and quality agro-outputs for consumption and with global acceptance like those of their counterparts across the globe.’’
Ogbeh said that the nationwide advocacy on quality control and standardisation of agricultural commodities targeted primary producers (farmers) and other stakeholders along the food chain.
According to him, the advocacy becomes necessary to inculcate the culture of agro-quality among key policymakers, in both public and private institutions.
The minister stressed that the role of food safety must be appreciated in the production, preparation, manufacturing, distribution, storage, sale of food and food products as well as agro-produce export promotion.
He said the campaign was also to profile, upgrade or establish commodities certification centres across the zones, so as to facilitate produce aggregation, certification, standardisation and traceability.
“The advocacy train, which took off in the North-West, was hosted by the Kano State Government on Aug. 28; followed by the North-Central edition, which was hosted by the Benue State Government on Sept. 6.
“We have also been to the South-East and we were hosted by the Enugu State Government; today, we are in the South-West, generously hosted by the Lagos State Government.
“From here, we will proceed to South-South and the North-East geo-political zones,’’ Ogbeh added.
Earlier, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State said that although the agro-allied industry had recorded some progress, it was not at the expected pace.
The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Oluwatoyin Suarau, said that a lot still needed to be done to acquire and apply advanced technology in order to increase yield.
Ambode said that this was also necessary to make agriculture more profitable and more attractive.
“The Lagos State Government has over the years and in recent times made tremendous progress in the area of agricultural development, with a lot of success stories like the “Lake Rice’’ project.
“We collaborated with the Kebbi State Government on the development of the rice value chain to come about Lake Rice and make it available to Lagosians in large quantities.
“This gesture has made locally made, nourishing and wholesome rice available to the public at affordable price.
“Lagos aligns herself with the vision of the Federal Government in its attempt to re-focus the nation’s economy and make agriculture, the major source of revenue and employment in the country,’’ Ambode said.