Quality and standards are of very high importance in every country. Agricultural Health Standards also known as Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Standards under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement deals with regulatory measures that are applied in order to protect humans (food safety and zoonotic diseases), animals and plant health ultimately by harmonizing SPS measures such as control and inspection procedures and risk assessment methods and facilities for food and agricultural products (raw and processed) in international trade or global supply chains.
The level of awareness with respect to agricultural health standards is on the increase as farmers, producers and manufacturers are being sensitized on the importance of producing high quality, and safety products for consumption as well as for exports. Although more emphasis is placed on goods for exports, there is a need to conscientiously apply all these measures to locally consumed goods too.
Presently in Nigeria, the major organisations involved in the standardisation of products are the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). The role played by SON includes supporting the development of quality infrastructure which includes: Standardisation, Metrology, Conformity Assessment, Training, and Laboratory Accreditation, operationalising WTO/TBT and SPS enquiry points and SPS Enquiry Point.
Some achievements of SON over the years includes: maintenance of over 46 entry/exit points at the International airports in Nigeria, seaports, land borders, general post offices and courier hub centres for port inspection; treatment (if necessary) and detention, issuance of plant import permit for plant materials (raw and semi-processed), soil, biocontrol agents, solid wood packaging materials and other regulated articles (e.g. artefacts), the inspection of crops during growth, agricultural commodities in warehouses and storage facilities prior to certification, maintenance of Post-Entry Quarantine Station and various laboratories for insect, fungi, virus, bacteria, nematode and tissue culture at Ibadan and zonal headquarters. It also includes handling of requests for Phytosanitary inspection on agricultural commodities for export to determine whether they meet SPS conditions of the importing countries and the issuance of Phytosanitary Certificate vouching that the consignment is free from injurious pests.
Some challenges encountered in implementing SPS standards in Nigeria include: Cross border smuggling of banned agrochemicals, usage of banned agrochemicals by farmers, low literacy among farmers, low or inexistent synergy amongst government agencies, Inadequate funding of government agencies, non-organization of the stakeholders in agricultural products into export oriented group.
The United Nation Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) have begun processes towards the implementation of the National Quality Accreditation System. This National Accreditation System is a body that can competently carry out specific tasks in terms of accreditation for conformity assessment, calibration and good laboratory practice. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and is aimed at providing support for the improvement of standards and quality control agencies so as to advance the quality of products and services. This project will ultimately help to boost the competitiveness of the country's private sector and also ensure the protection of its consumers. It would also assist in Standards in measurements in trade, manufacturing, export and import activities in the country and help to promote Agro-Exports from Nigeria.
- Sarah Edewor, PhD Student, FUNAAB