17 January 2016

Nigeria: Govt to Resolve Suspension On Food Exports to EU Before June Deadline

The Federal Government says it is working to resolve the suspension of Nigeria's dried beans exports to the European Union before the June deadline.

The Director-General of the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA, Rufus Ebegba, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

Mr. Ebegba said that relevant agencies of the federal government were working closely on the matter and would ensure that the anomaly was corrected before June.

It would be recalled that the EU announced an import suspension measure in June 2015, which affected dried beans from Nigeria.

Nigeria's dried beans was said to contain high levels of pesticides which is dangerous to human health. The EU's suspension of Nigeria will lapse in June 2016, when the country is expected to provide "substantial guarantees that adequate official control systems have been put in place to ensure compliance with food law requirements".

Mr. Ebegba said he was aware that the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and other relevant agencies, were working closely to resolve the issue before the deadline.

"The Federal Government is a very large family; however, everybody has to work together to ensure the Change Agenda of the present administration becomes a reality.

"I am optimistic that the country will enhance its productivity and correct the earlier mistakes that led to the ban," he said.

Mr. Ebegba emphasised the need for collaboration between regulatory authorities and other stakeholders to put in place a quality control framework to enhance acceptability of the country's agricultural exports in the international market.

He said it was the responsibility of the new agency, which is six months old, to educate Nigerians on modern biotechnology.

According to him, the NBMA will ensure safe practice of the Genetically Modified (GM) technology among farmers in the country.

"As a regulatory body, what we do is to ensure unbiased treatment and make sure that the new technology does not have any negative impact on humans and the environment.

"We are trying to convince Nigerians and farmers to embark on this new technology in order to boost our economy through agriculture.

"The agency through its sensitisation programmes organised seminars and workshops across the three geo-political zones even before the bill was passed into law to campaign for its passage and create awareness among farmers.

"We are working towards translating our handbills and pamphlets into the three major languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba for easy understanding among rural farmers," he said.

The NBMA also allayed the fears in some quarters that GM crops had adverse effects on human health.

Describing the fear about GM crops as unfounded, Mr. Ebegba advised Nigerians to embrace the technology which, he said, was safe and economically viable.

The director-general gave farmers the assurance that the NBMA would carry out risk assessments and analyses on GM seedlings to ensure that they were environmentally friendly and safe for consumption before they are released to them.

He also appealed to farmers to trust the decision of the NBMA and be rest assured that the agency would ensure safety in the practice of GM technology.

"The days of peasant farming are long gone; we are now looking to commercial farming that will help in generating more income for our farmers and the economy," said Mr. Ebegba.

NAN

Nigeria

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