Port Harcourt, Nigeria(Regulus)- Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, is the agency tasked with the responsibility of regulating the movement of agricultural produce in and out of Nigeria. Regulus Correspondent, Seam Lazarus, sat down with the South East Coordinator, Mrs Adewole Philomina, to examine the agency’s contribution so far.
Good morning Ma, may we know you please?
I am Mrs. Adewale Philomena, Zonal coordinator of Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, South East Zone.
What are your main responsibilities in the Ministry of Agriculture?
We, being a regulatory Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture, we regulate the movement of agricultural produce going out and coming into Nigeria. We do that by having our staffs in all the point of entering into Nigeria stations. You can find us at either the Airport, Seaport and land borders, making sure the agricultural produce going in and out are pest or disease free. We are of three departments in the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services; plant unit, animal unit and aquatic resources unit. So all agricultural produce be it plant, animal and aquatic we regulate it. We ensure that pest is not imported into the country and also helping our farmers to be able to produce internationally accepted produce.
What do you really import, I mean farmers in Nigeria.
Nigeria import so many things because we are always importing; we import Rice, Malt for breweries, Barley e.t.c
Cut in! What plant produce do we import most?
We import Apple, Wheat that is for plant produce, for aquatic produce, we import most of the fishes we consume in Nigeria. Animal aspect we import Talo, some people even import Cattle, we import Dogs, so all this things we have to quarantine them before they enter the country.
What then do we export as a country?
For exports, you will agree with me that this present government is talking of the exportation of agricultural produce, we have started exporting yam and we about to start exporting our own rice. Even some people are exporting Garri, Palm oil and vegetables.
What are the challenges that your agency face in carrying out this task?
Well, the greatest challenge is that of ignorance, most farmers always want to break the rules and most times wouldn’t want to pass through us. It is either they don’t know of the agency’s added value or that people are in haste, failing to come in order to be guarded properly on how to go about it before exporting their produce. By the time the produce gets there you hear that our products are being subjected to rigorous checks by the UK to be precise.
They wouldn’t want to pay what they are meant to pay, which is a small amount, maybe they don’t know and that they are ignorant of it. Also another great challenge is that we need advertisement of this particular agency, so that people will know that by coming to us it will add value to their agricultural produce. This is because what we do mainly is to add value.
Ma, what do you think that farmers in Nigeria need to emulate from other exporting countries?
Well, agriculture in Nigeria as whole as it stands, still needs to be upgraded in many areas, the way we cultivate our produce have to be monitored by quarantine agency so that it wil be pest free, especially our vegetables are sometimes infected by small pests.
So, we still have to make some changes because our produce is still not up to the top most standards yet. We need to do something to educate our farmers on how to compete with other international products.
So if we put all this in place, we can compete with the UK in agricultural products.
Exactly, because they have to be taken care of from the day you plant it. It is not when you harvest it, from the day you plant it, we have to monitor it and tell you how to go about the produce. And even the produce has to be inspected and treated before it comes out.
What is the present government doing to help the Ministry to be able to quarantine agricultural produce in Nigeria?
The Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, is doing a lot to make sure that produce from Nigeria agricultural economy is acceptable outside the country. He is working hard currently towards it.