Nigeria loses around USD 362.5 million in foreign currency annually due to the European Union (EU) banning the export of dried beans over the past eight years.
The Director General of the Nigerian Agriculture Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, who announced this in Abuja at the inauguration of members of the Agro Zero Standing Committee, said Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of dried cowpeas, accounting for nearly half of the world’s production.
However, he noted that Nigeria is not among the top ten exporters of dried cowpeas in the world.
We recall that in January 2013, the EU temporarily suspended imports of dried beans from Nigeria for a year because Nigerian farmers used excessive chemicals to control a pest, Maruca vitrata, to damage crops in the field. The ban was later extended to 2022.
He noted that this sad paradox was largely due to the lack of proper monitoring to ensure that goods turned over for export meet standards for pesticide residue and other phytosanitary requirements.
Isegbe stated that the lack of export quality guarantees and the resulting occasional pattern of export traffic of dried beans from Nigeria would cost the country $ 362.5 million annually.
He stressed that Nigeria must restore conventional export control measures at all entry points in order to optimize its comparative advantage in agricultural commodities and to diversify the economy.
Speaking of the weak link in the bean value chain, Isegbe said the ban was caused by an export control loophole that allowed dried beans to be shipped with pesticide residues above the allowable threshold.
He mentioned that the results of NAQS ‘extensive field work and laboratory analysis showed that the high pesticide residue challenge in Nigerian beans was not nested in the farm.
He reported that the bean samples collected from the farms had low levels of pesticide residues – below the maximum residue limit (MRL) reported by Nigerian trading partners – while the bean samples collected from the camps had high levels of pesticide residues in excess of the MRL.
According to him, this large difference suggests that high pesticide use is due to the bulk buyers, aggregators and exporters. To protect their populations from weevils and other storage pests, these actors usually lace their beans generously with pesticides. This raises the pesticide residues in the goods above the maximum residue level and inadvertently makes them inaccessible for export.
He noted that NAQS was intensifying public awareness of the dangers of indiscriminate pesticide use. He said the agency’s message about integrated pest management, proper pesticide use and good agricultural practices (GAP) is breaking through with farmers, buyers, warehouse owners and exporters in the bean production belts and across the country.
He expressed hope that a shift from synthetic pesticides to bio-pesticides and organic farming among actors in the agricultural value chain will bring the country closer to the point where Nigeria can dominate the global cowpea market and other markets where the nation can gain its comparative advantage can assert.