As Christmas approaches, less than 20 days away, the Federal Government has warned Nigerians to beware of agricultural products, like rice, fish and chicken, smuggled into the country, saying such items contain poisonous substances that are injurious to health.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development delivered this warning at a stakeholders’ meeting, in Abuja on Wednesday.

The meeting was to discuss strategies for curtailing the influx of smuggled rice, frozen fish and poultry products (turkey and chicken) into the country through the border routes, especially as the yuletide approaches with tendency of smugglers flooding the market with expired food products.

Information from the ministry urged people to patronise locally produced rice and poultry meat to stay healthy.

According to the ministry’s policy document, “importation of rice and frozen fish through land borders is illegal and prohibited. Importation of poultry and poultry products through any means are also illegal and prohibited.

“The Federal Government would like to warn that there are serious health hazards associated with these illegally imported frozen products. This is as a result of failure in the maintenance of cold chain and wrong handling of these products.

“Frozen fish and poultry meat become unwholesome for human consumption due to chemicals used in their preservation; more so, there are bacterial contaminants due to poor handling that can cause serious health challenges.”

“The ministry, therefore, advised people to shun all smuggled foods especially frozen poultry products, frozen fish as well as rice, the government will deal decisively with any person, organisation, and shop owners, among others, involved in the nefarious activities.”

The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, had at a recent meeting with the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), called on the Customs to clampdown on smugglers of frozen fish and chicken into the country.

Speaking when the Customs CG paid him a courtesy visit in his office, Ogbeh noted that the efforts of the Service was instrumental to the curtailing of importation of banned items into the country, pointing out that rice importation had dropped from 644,000 to 20,000 tonnes, according to reports from Thai Rice Exporters Association.

Author: Yemi Olarinre