Chinese, Nigerian Importers Floods Market With Substandard Tomato Past

.Manufacturers accuse NAFDAC, SON of collusion  .Local industries on the brink of collapse 

Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe

Despite the ban on the importation of tomato past in retail packs by the federal government since 2016, it has emerged that Chinese and Nigerian importers are massively importing contaminated tomato past into the country.

THISDAY investigation revealed that the Chinese and their Nigerian cohorts are flooding the country with fake tomato past with the aid of officials of the National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Customs Service) and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).

It was learnt that a high percentage of tomato past imports from China in retail packs are substandard and do not meet the prescribed quality standards and specification.

Experts told THISDAY that food safety issues and attendant health implications need to be urgently addressed and challenges tackled to safe guard the health of the nation.

Aside the health concerns, Nigerian manufacturers complained bitterly that the importers of adulterated tomato past are running them out of business with many jobs at risk.

The producers who do not want their name in print for fear of persecution by the government agencies they accuse of colluding with the Chinese, said efforts to get the agencies to go after the merchants of death did not yield any result.

According to one of the producers, “We have written several letters to inform NAFDAC of the overwhelming presence of fake products as well as to work with, in order to save innocent Nigerians and indigenous, trusted tomato past manufacturers. Nothing is being done. We are at the forefront of promoting and encouraging the patronage of ‘made in Nigeria’ products and local manufacturing.”

In a letter to the Minister of Health seen by THISDAY, they called on the federal government to urgently intervene to stem the tide of the influx of fake and substandard tomato past that the Chinese and Nigerian importers are dumping in Nigeria for many years.

“Despite the fact that China and Vietnam where these tomato past products are imported from do not allow the same tomato past to be eaten in their various countries, they export it here to kill us gradually via cancer. It is a pity that Asians and their cohorts are leading the importation of banned tomato past and other food products into our country.

“Unfortunately, the products are made of starch and colour as contained in a speech delivered by a former Director General of NAFDAC, Dr Paul Orhil at a tomato stakeholders’ forum held at NAFDAC auditorium in Lagos. A NAFDAC internal memo dated February 10, 2015 also indicates tat 91.1 per cent of imported tomato past are substandard, yet, no enforcement. We have never heard NAFDAC seizing any substandard and imported food items except during the time of Prof. Dora Akunyili, “they stated.

They accused NAFDAC of closing their eyes while the Chinese dump substandard tomato past on Nigeria.

“The current NAFDAC Dg replied one of our letters and pleased with us to give her time to act, but its over six months now and we believe that her letter to us was to buy time, as we suspect that some NAFDAC cabals might be the brains behind the importation, because we have more than ever before high quantities of imported tomato past in the markets as of today, than when we wrote NAFDAC, “they added.

They called on the minister to use his good office to compel HAFDAC to do the right thing.

They also called on the minister to declare zero tolerance on fake and substandard tomato past and other food products, “This will enable Nigeria get rid of the menace and the health and well-being of Nigerians will be assured. Be reminded sir that any harm or damage caused by the inefficiency of NAFDAC or any department under your ministry, you will surely share part of the blame.

“We suspect that some local and foreign importers in collaboration with some government agencies are bent on destroying the health of Nigerians by the dumping of these deadly products into our markets, just for the sake of their economy. Regrettably, NAFDAC silence or sleeping on duty has emboldened them to increase imports, an investigation in our markets will convince you. The effect of the consumption of these fake and substandard tomato past and other food products is deadlier than the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.”

An official of another local manufacturer told THISDAY that NAFDAC, their enforcement of standards for local manufacturers is very effective, “hence most locally produced tomato past are of high quality. Unfortunately, they are not applying the same stringent enforcement measures on foreign and imported tomato past, as the quantity of imports is far bigger than what local manufacturers struggle to produce.

“We are yet to utilize up to 15 per cent of our installed capacity due to the regulatory agencies inaction. We are worried because we believe in made in Nigeria, hence we never imported or marketed any food products, since inception we sell what we produce in our Nigerian factory. That is why we need the sector to be properly sanitized to truly safeguard the health of Nigerians, as we can never join them to kill Nigerians.”

Meanwhile, in the letter to the minister, the tomato past producer stated, “sir, it is very unfortunate that departments under your ministry will allow the importation of items that can be produced better in Nigeria and for export. The beauty of supporting made in Nigeria is that, when they are locally produced, it will help create more jobs, earn foreign exchange and stimulate economic growth and stem the tide of kidnappings, armed robbery and all forms of youth restiveness to make Nigeria a better place. Unfortunately, NAFDAC utterances of helping to diversify the economy in the media are mere eye service as their actions are helping in closing down more factories in the country. 

“Despite the huge amount of money we pay as NAFDAC charges, port charges and custom duties for every import of our raw materials, which is quite discouraging and frustrating, whereas importers of fake and substandard products pay little or nothing to government coffers, yet, NAFDAC prefers Nigerian manufacturers with about 7,000 to 10,000 workers to close their factories for import cabals that employs less than 250 Nigerians”

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