Nigerian exported yam was not rejected in the U.K —NAQS boss
Following some reports that the United Kingdom rejected yam tubers exported from Nigeria, COLLINS NNABUIFE spoke with the Coordinating Director of Nigeria Agriculture Quarantine Service, Dr Vincent Isegbe, who explained what happened and other developments in the agricultural sector
Recently, there was a report quoting the Minister of Agriculture that the tubers of yam exported to U.K were rejected, what actually happened?
The tubers of yams were not rejected, the Minister didn’t say the yam was rejected, all he said was that the Nigerian Agriculture Quarantine Service should investigate what was shown on television. Some tubers of yams were shown in a warehouse and were tagged as bad. The story was that a Nigerian exporting yam to the United Kingdom, the video shown that at that point, the yam had gotten bad, the man clearly mentioned that when he put the yam in the container, it took about a week before it was put into the ship, and the shipping line did not carry the consignment to the UK until after 3 months, so naturally, yam being what it is could not survive such carriage and it ended up being bad, so it is just a logistic issue with the person that shipped the yam for him.
Is there anything government is doing to address this logistic issue so that it doesn’t affect export of agricultural produce?
That one is not directly a quarantine issue but it is of concern to us that having certified the yam, it was rejected, for every export, if it does not get to its destination, it is not good for us, we consider it as bad business, but we ensure that if issues like that are brought to our notice we can intervene to find out what is happening. It is not our mandate to engage shipping lines with the exporter, but we can help to ensure that the conditions for the shipping lines are there for whoever is shipping his consignment.
What are the procedures for exporting yam?
We want to advise people who are going into business, every business is not all comers affairs, you need to find answers to some questions or else if you buy the commodity first before looking for market, you will run into problems.
If somebody wants to export, the first port of call is the market before thinking of getting the yam to supply to the market, if you have the market, then you know where the commodities are going to, so you approach the NAQS and tell them the location the yam is going because in the phyto-Sanitary certificate for any agricultural produce, the exporter with the destination will have to be quoted in the certificate, then we will now tell you how to get the correct commodity to export.
For yam, we do not advise you to go to the open market to buy yam to export, it is not advisable, you need Quarantine guidance, once you come to Quarantine we sit down with you, we interview you and guide you properly and give you the guideline so that you can go home with it.
Why we say potential exporter shouldn’t buy from the open market is because you don’t know how long the yam had stayed with the farmer before he sold it to the middleman who eventually brought it to the market and how long it has stayed in the store and don’t forget the stores we have here most of them are not concrete, and so there is a likelihood of seepage and once there is seepage from the ground or the wall if they are wet, moulds can easily grow and once those moulds grow on yam it can contaminate other yam tubers, so we want to avoid that.
So we want to ensure that the yam tubers that are exported go directly from the farmer who is producing it with minimal delay to Quarantine inspection, to the container straight to shipment, all in all, these process should not take more than two weeks so that the commodity can get to that place clean and safe.
So the criteria involve Quarantine from the word go, we volunteer to even help you select the yam, after the selection, we do the inspection, after the inspection, we give you the phyto-Sanitary certificate, once you get the certificate you will arrange for the container that will carry the yam, we will also inspect the container because it is our responsibility to ensure that the container is refrigerated which can maintain a temperature of about 14 degrees to about 20 degrees so that the yam can get there safe, when it gets to the other side, the Quarantine authority of the importing country will receive it look at the phyto-Sanitary certificate, see that everything is in order, then they allow it to pass.
We have more than 65 Quarantine stations in the whole country, so farmers will have access, we have five zones; We have the North Western zone in Kano, the North Eastern zone in Maiduguri, North Central in Markudi, South West in Lagos and South East in Port-Harcourt and in between those zones, we have offices scattered round those zones, so any farmer who wants to export should approach Quarantine.
What is the development on the issue between FAAN and NAQS?
The issue of FAAN was as a result of this executive order 001 and they are trying to realign the number of people on the inspection desk to ensure that there is quick clearance of goods and commodities, it is a beautiful idea, that the relevant authorities should be the ones there to do what they are supposed to do, but Nigeria is desirous to export commodities and the agency of government responsible for certifying, inspecting, preventing disease from coming in and going out is Quarantine Service and now the implementing agencies like FAAN and others are saying that Quarantine should not be where it is supposed to be, so we wonder who is going to do what Quarantine is suppose to do, no other other agency can issue phyto-Sanitary certificate apart from Quarantine.
The essence of executive order 001 is to ease business, and in doing that too you should consider your national interest, the national interest for Nigeria now is to encourage non oil export so that we can supplement the dwindling resources from oil, so we are still talking with FAAN to let them see reasons why we should be there to do in the interest of government.
Apart from yam, are you supporting exportation of other agricultural produce?
We are encouraging emerging products or commodities, a lot of things that we have in this country that are in dire need, take sugar cane for example it is good business, onion, garlic, ginger, are good businesses, hibiscus flower ( used for zobo) is good business in Mexico, Spain and other countries, because it is organic they use it to colour wine and pharmaceutical companies because it is organic instead of using artificial colours, they use our Zobo, and our Zobo is the best grade in the world it can titrate up to four times other African countries cannot achieve that, so we are in a prime position to export hibiscus, about 800 containers have left, we have about a thousand more containers that
are about going, Nigerians are doing these things quietly, so we are still encouraging more people to come up.