By James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Monday said a new National Pesticide Policy will soon be launched to regulate the indiscriminate use of chemicals in the preservation of farm produce in the country.
He also said a policy on food management would soon be introduced, adding that cases of self poisoning had been on the rise largely because people lacked relevant knowledge on the best ways to preserve food.
The minister spoke at a crucial meeting of stakeholders against the backdrop of video evidence suggesting the use of ‘snipper’, a toxic pesticide, for the preservation of beans.
Ogbeh, who noted that ‘snipper’ was particularly harmful to the lungs, drew a correlation between the increasing cases of kidney, lungs and other diseases among young Nigerians.
He described the development as a crisis at hand because users of the toxic preservatives are apparently ignorant of the consequences on human lives.
He said lack of awareness of the dangers associated with the use of such chemicals constituted the biggest challenge, adding that “it will not be easy to solve”.
Nevertheless he charged the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to devise a means to tackling the menace through effective public enlightenment campaign.
The minister emphasised that “food must not become our poison”, stressing that more aggressive work needed to be done to arrest the development.
He said an aggressive campaign should be expected within a short time to create public awareness about an “endless bad practices” adopted by Nigeria in food management, including the more rampant sun – drying of cassava on the highways with all its attendant risks.
Also speaking at the meeting, which is expected to come up with recommendations on the way forward, the National Coordinator, National Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, had lamented that the country has had no national pesticide policy.
He said illiteracy had further helped to worsen matters, leading to accumulation of “chemicals on our beans”.
However, he said the proposed 29-page policy on pesticides administration, which his agency is spearheading, would be ready in weeks.
The coordinator, who noted that a holistic approach was needed, added that the agency was considering a recommendation for the use of biodegradable pesticides against chemical types for food preservation.
On his part, the President, Cowpea and Beans Farmers Processors and Marketers, Mr. Shittu Mohammed Kabir, backed the proposed policy on pesticides as the way to go.
He said efforts were currently being made to create multiple collection centres where farm produce are received from farmers at harvest and stored in a professional way to further reduce contamination.
He added that adopting the correct procedure for beans storage will significantly address food contamination.