ARSO Standards Harmonisation means More Markets for Nigeria’s Agricl Produce. –SON

Nigerian agricultural and allied products can now compete more favourably in regional and international markets following a recent harmonization of standards  by the Africa Regional Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO).
The harmonisation exercise follows concerted  calls to make the continent’s agricultural sector competitive on the global market.
Director-General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Dr. Paul Angya also a member of ARSO, who provided an update on the latest development, said the next step is for the nation is to prioritise its agricultural sector by making standards available for that sector.
This he said would prepare Nigerian agricultural products to meet the standards stipulated by the association.
Angya who spoke during the ARSO General Assembly said Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) must realise the importance of standards application to their businesses, adding that the sector also has a vital role to play in ensuring that the nation’s non-oil exports are exportable.
The SON boss informed that Nigeria has been applauded for its role in the development of the ARSO, adding that the nation’s contributions were in the areas of technical work and policy administration.
“Our agricultural and allied products now have a ready market in Africa. So it is for us to go back and renew our energy in those priority sectors and teach our people the critical relevant sectors and the availability of these agricultural standards.
“It is also to teach them how to apply them to improve production in order to meet the ready and available market that ARSO has created for us,” he said.
Angya further said,“SMEs must realise the importance of standards’ application to their own personal enterprises, the capacity of standards to improve their productivity and their profits. We have embarked on massive sensitisation and education, we have also engaged in training the SMEs. We have trained them in standards application, management systems and they have realised that application of these standards will improve their overall profit margin that is why they are coming in groups to join the band wagon of SON. we have also discussed with the ACP-TBT institutions about supporting Shea butter producers in Nigeria and when we go back home, we are going to inform them about the approval of the ACP-TBT project to impact immediately in Shea butter production.”
He said it is rather a coincidence that agriculture and agricultural products have dominated the main theme of standardization for this year at the ARSO General Assembly and also the issue of women empowerment using standards and standardisation, stressing that Nigeria is looking at diversifying the economy by improving non-oil products for export and agriculture.
“We have already designed and initiated a project to propagate agriculture standards and to focus mainly on agricultural practices by applying standards in Nigeria so that they can contribute as a sector in the economic development of the country. We have also identified women and children as essential factor in propagating standardization and developing the economy and you know that there are more women involved in agriculture and agricultural practices than men,” he said.
As a predominantly agrarian society, “It is going to be easier for agricultural products in Nigeria to access the African continental trade because most of the standards are already harmonized here, so we will simply take these standards and use them in Nigeria and when the products are finished, they would have been manufactured and produced to the standards requirement in all of Africa. So the technical barriers that usually exist in trading across intra-continental trade, would have already been eliminated even before we go to the market,” he said.
He said the way forward was to continually improve on standards, pointing out that there was a renewed interest in the work of ARSO globally, where almost every international donor and development agencies were supporting standards’ harmonisation.
Also speaking at the event, an expert on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of the ACP TBT programme of the European Union, Mrs. Idinakide Eva, said the programme was not for only women development but for overall development and facilitation of trade, noting that the programme had three different dimensions .
 According to her, “We are now completing most of the project tenders and all the activities have to be finalized by January 2017. And in terms of the project cycle, it is not really much time, but we hope we will be able to help Shea butter producers in Nigeria with specific support of the programme and hopefully there will be other projects coming up.”

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Industries,  Dr.Sam Egwu, said as a parliamentarian, he has been better informed about the activities of SON, urging Nigerians to constantly adhere to standards in their everyday lives
According to him, there is need to understand the importance of SON as it obtains in other parts of the world.
“Even in Africa, Kenya is ahead of us, most countries of the world are ahead of us with regards to standards activities in their various countries and yet in Nigeria. Even if you encourage local producers, the manufacturers of these goods; and you do not ensure that what they produce is of high standards, people will still be discouraged and they would not like to patronize them.  Nobody wants to spend money on inferior materials, so the important thing here is to make sure whatever they produce is of high standards before people will be encouraged to buy made-in-Nigeria goods,” he submitted.
“ If you give them all the incentives such as low taxes, resources by way of loans and grants and they do not produce quality goods, it is of no use. The major issue here is to ensure they produce high quality materials, and the SON needs to be encouraged and supported by way of giving them whatever they need to make them perform efficiently and effectively,” he stressed.