Dr Omar Bello, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, made the appeal on Monday in Bauchi while addressing farmers and traders against indiscriminate use of agrochemicals in food production.
Bello said that Nigeria’s agricultural commodities were being rejected in the international market due to poor quality arising from contaminations and health related matters.
“That results in upsurge in metabolic diseases amongst consumers in Nigeria and elsewhere.
“This concern is also becoming worrisome just as the country strives to increase its revenue base through none oil export, particularly through the agricultural commodities that are of international importance.
“When you examine the cost of improper use of chemicals to both the users and consumers of such produce, the loss to Nigeria is in billions, apart from the implication on nutrition and health, increased cost of production, marketing, loss of labour productivity and impact on children’s development,” he said.
The permanent secretary said that narrative had to change positively through improvement in local production, processing, storage, marketing and utilisation, hence the training and advocacy on zero rejection.
Bello said the training would guarantee quality in operations from production to marketing so that Nigeria’s agricultural commodities would be accepted in both domestic and global markets.
“The participation of farmers and traders are key in addressing the various challenges we have on food safety, especially in marketing that result in the rejection of our export produce.
“Zero rejection is quality control and standardisation to entrench best agricultural practices in agricultural production, processing and storage handling by traders and stakeholders along value chain towards quality consumption and export drive.
“It is hoped that at the end of the training and street sensitisation rally Nigerian farmers, traders, food vendors, caterers and other stakeholders will adopt best practices in agricultural produce for competitiveness at both domestic and international markets,” he said.
The permanent secretary commended the Women Wing of the National Association of Nigeria Traders that had worked with government to initiate the workshop.
He said that the workshop, which started in the FCT, had been conducted in some parts of the country.
The Permanent Secretary, Bauchi State Ministry for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Bala Lukshi, while declaring the workshop open, said that most farmers in the state were yet to sell thousands of bags of grains produced in 2018.
Lukshi said that the grains could not be sold due to glut in export market as a result of indiscriminate use of agrochemicals by farmers.
“The issue is not new to the state as in previous years we have recorded some unfortunate situation because of consumption of grains that were contaminated with adulterated chemicals or were not properly dressed with agrochemicals.
“It resulted in loss of lives and as a result of that, we in the agricultural sector have been keeping our eyes open to see how we can address that problem.
“But the misuse of agrochemicals is not something that can be tackled within a state, it has to be taken nationwide, hence the importance of the workshop.
“Last week, with the support of a Global Affairs, Canada funded agency, we gathered stakeholders to discuss the misuse of agrochemicals which is affecting fisheries, livestock, poultry and crop sellers.
“This is what is giving us headache in our homes where today you take a sick person to hospital and there is no definite diagnosis due to the nature of the diseases resulting from consumption of improper dressing of crops with agrochemicals.
“We are strengthening our produce unit under the directorate of agriculture to inspect grains in the market to ensure proper use of agrochemicals,” Lukshi said.
The permanent secretary said that the ministry had started discussion with an organisation for instant assessment of the level of agrochemicals in produce in the markets toward and instant withdrawal of such when found not fit for consumption.