Beans growers have estimated that the country is losing about $500 million due to the continuous extension of the ban placed on Nigerian dry beans by the European Union, Daily Independent has gathered.
The European Union had in 2013 placed a temporary suspension on the importation of Nigeria’s beans to the European market till June 2015 over high residual aflatoxins.
The ban was placed due to excessive use of chemicals by Nigerian farmers to prevent pests from damaging the crops on the field.
Again in mid-2015, the EU suspended the export of selected Nigerian agricultural produce to their member countries.
The details are outlined in the EU regulation 2015/943 as amended by Regulation 2016/874.
The ban was extended by three years from the June 2016 deadline due to the observation of non-compliances to pesticides and other chemicals with a minimum acceptable residue level of 0.01mg/ kg.
The EU said it had extended the import ban to EU countries to June 2022 over Nigeria’s failure to implement its food safety action plan submitted in 2018.
Beans is one of the most popular and staple foods in Africa, especially in Nigeria, and the 4th most consumed after cassava, yam, and rice.
More brown beans than black-eyed beans are abundantly cultivated by majority of farmers in the northern parts of Nigeria such as Borno, Gombe, Kano, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara states.
Beans or cowpea is a legume which is widely grown by farmers in various varieties and has about 32 species.
Beans are highly recommended for eating because of its numerous health benefits and nutritional values and also are the main protein source when compared to all other protein foods in Nigeria and most African countries.
Stakeholders, in separate interviews with Daily Independent, said Nigeria was not only losing financially but was also losing employment opportunities because some farmers were no longer interested in farming beans which production has reduced to about 1.5 million metric tons.
The stakeholders also said that the European Union placing a blanket ban on beans from Nigeria was a great disincentive to farmers painstakingly growing organically.
Shittu Mohammed, National President, Cowpea and Beans Farmers Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, said it was devastating because it had brought the nation back since other countries were exporting.
Mohammed said the association was working to put farmers into clusters to enable them get proper training and access to mechanisation, inputs, improved varieties, and all that they need to increase production.
He also said that measures had been put in place to build farmers’ capacity in best agronomic practices, stressing that the ban was because the farmers were using excess chemicals and pesticides on dried beans.
He said: “We need to take the right measures and the measures we will take now are to empower our famers and see how we will not allow residual to our crops.
“We need to enlighten our farmers not to use all these chemicals that are injurious to our health.
“The farmers need awareness, everybody needs awareness, they need support and we need to now look at the mode of our transportation, planting, harvesting, and storing. Our storage system must change.”
Speaking further, he said because the European Union had banned Nigerian beans, other countries also rejected it.
“We have markets in the Middle East, Turkey, Iran but because the European Union banned Nigeria’s beans most of these other countries also reject our beans; they are also judging you from that,” he said.
He, however, lamented that because of that some farmers were no longer interested in farming beans because the country was losing both financial and job opportunities.
“We are losing nothing less than between $100 million to $500 million,” he said.
Dr. Victor Iyama, National President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN), said Nigeria was doing its best and would continue to do its best to see that the ban was finally lifted.
“We have done enough towards that end, but if they are still not satisfied with that because they are seeing a couple of beans that are adulterated or contaminated with preservative chemicals and they are acting on it, what shall we do?
“We are losing a lot of foreign exchange, that is the simple truth but luckily beans is our food, it is our staple food, we are not exporting to European Union, but we are exporting to neighbouring countries.
“So one way or another, they are still sending it there, that is the simple truth, because you cannot just find some few consignments contaminated with chemicals and then because of that you just put a blanket ban on a nation’s crop.”
Anga Sotonye, an agribusiness strategist, stated that the extended ban would impact negatively on the market.
He said it was for the Nigerian government to quickly enter into dialogue to ensure that the ban was set aside so that free trade could happen between Nigeria and the EU.
“We need to do something drastic. The foreign affairs and the ambassadors to the EU should rise up and take action immediately, these are the things you don’t take lightly, and otherwise the balance of trade would be negatively impacted.”
Sotonye said the point still remained that a greater number of Nigeria’s agricultural produce is grown organically.
“When you put a flat ban, it is going to serve as a disincentive to the organically grown beans.
“The EU does not need to put a blanket ban; they need to understand that a great majority of our locally produced beans are produced organically without any insecticide.
“Yes, we have those that are grown with chemicals but the awareness is beginning to grow now that we have to go organic,” he said.