The Director General, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, has warned that the country risks losing a lot of foreign exchange and thousands of jobs if the third consecutive farming season runs out without the resumption of the export of Nigerian Hibiscus flowers (zobo).
In a conference call with a group of reporters on Sunday, Dr. Isegbe lamented that ‘’Nigeria lost 80 million dollars –an equivalent of 28.8 billion naira –in the last two farming seasons due to the lull in the export of Hibiscus flower (zobo) and ma lose double in third annual export cycle that except stakeholders change tack.’’
He explained that Mexico suspended the export of Hibiscus flowers from Nigeria in 2017, on account of the presence of a storage pest, tragoderma, in some cargoes which originated from our country.
Since then, NAQS, which is the lead agency for facilitating international trade in Nigerian agricultural commodities, has been working hard to reopen the gateway of the Mexican market to Nigerian Hibiscus as soon as possible.
According to him: ‘’We are desperate to restart export to our largest Hibiscus trading partner. We are cognizant that the hibernation of activities in the Hibiscus value is causing job losses in thousands. We have developed a work plan in consultation with hibiscus farmers, suppliers, transporters and cleaners to serve as a pathway to regaining Nigerian access to the Mexican market. This work plan aims to get everyone on the same page in the interest of achieving industry-wide compliance with the applicable export grade standards for Hibiscus.’’
Dr. Isegbe disclosed that the implementation of the work plan stands at 90%. He regretted that at a time when the Agency was on the verge of the endgame, an NGO with a curious agenda surfaced with a lawsuit which has now effectively stalled progress toward completion of the work plan.
‘’The NGO is asking the court to restrain NAQS from authorizing the use of methyl bromide for pre-shipment fumigation of hibiscus. Mexico is the largest importer of Nigerian hibiscus. Its quarantine authority requested that all hibiscus cargoes destined for export to Mexico be fumigated with methyl bromide. This demand is their fundamental condition for resumption of trade with Nigeria on that commodity. It’s part of the work plan we designed with all stakeholders, but this suit is praying the court to order NAQS to abandon this critical element of the work plan.
The NGO’s prayer is premised on the erroneous notion that Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete The Ozone Layer categorically prohibits th use of methyl bromide and that as Party to the Protocol, Nigeria is under obligation to enforce the idealized phase-out of the substance.’’