The European Union (EU) says it has earmarked 12 million euros (N2.5 billion) to support and improve the standard and quality of four Nigerian agricultural products.
Mr Filippo Amato, the Counselor and Head of Trade and Economics Section of EU, disclosed this at a National workshop on the Development of Standards and Engagement of the Private Sector, in Abuja on Thursday.
The workshop with theme, `Standards and Quality-Unleashing the Potentials of Agricultural Products to Grow Non-Oil Exports in Nigeria’, was organised by EU in collaboration with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
He listed the pilot products to be support to include shea butter, melon seed, dry beans and leather.
According to him, part of the strategy is to make sure that these commodities are processed according to agreed and acceptable standards to ensure that they are not rejected both at the EU border and other countries.
``The EU is supporting the efforts of Nigeria to improve the standards and quality of its products through various programs.
``The African Carribean Pacific (ACP) EU-TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) programme for which we are here today, is one of them.
``The EU is investing 12 million euros in this project which is approximately N2.5 billion.
``The project has adopted a value chain approach to four commodities in pilot to support Nigeria’s export which are shea butter, melon seed, dried beans and leather.
``Part of the strategy is to make sure that these commodities are processed according to agreed and acceptable standards to ensure that they are not rejected not only in EU borders but wherever they are exported in the world.
``The main purpose of this workshop is to provide technical support to all Nigerian stakeholders involved in finding a solution to the EU ban on Nigerian dried beans.
``This ban will be lifted as soon as the EU receives substantial guarantees from the Nigerian authorities that an adequate official control system has been put in place to ensure that dried beans exported from Nigeria are no longer dangerous for human health.’’
The Minister of Industries, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Enelamah, expressed regrets that over 15 per cent of food and agro products exported from Nigeria were being rejected.
Enelamah, represented by a Director of Trade in the ministry, Alhaji Labaran Yinusa, said that all hands must be on deck to build capacity of farmers in the country and accredit laboratories to carry out acceptable tests and analysis.
The Acting Director General of SON, Dr Paul Angya, said that the organisation was currently operating the food and chemistry, engineering, textile and leather laboratories with the National Metrology Institute presently under construction.
Angya said the objective of the workshop was to increase the capacity of SON to assist Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to add value to agricultural products.
``The objective is to strengthen and build capacity of the testing laboratories of SON by enhancing the technical competence of the staff of the SON laboratory as well assisting SON testing (Electronutrients laboratories ) to become ready for accreditation by an internationally recongnised accreditation body.
``So that exported products can be tested locally in Nigeria thereby increasing the speed and acceptability of Nigerian products to export market.’’
A representative of ECOWAS, Mr Lawson Mensah, commended the EU for their support in Nigeria.
He appealed to all relevant stakeholders to assist in improving the quality of Nigeria’s agricultural produce for export.
The event was attended by staff of SON, representatives from the Consumers Protection Council and National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC).