The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has called on the Anambra Government to suspend production and sale of all unregistered rice labelled “Anambra Rice’’.
Mrs Christiana Essenwa, a Deputy Director of NAFDAC, made the call on Monday during a visit to the state Ministry of Agriculture in Awka.
Essenwa said that the call became imperative following a petition forwarded to NAFDAC by Stine Industries, Nnewi, over the alleged counterfeiting and illegal use of the trade mark by the state government.
“Sometime this year, a petitioner, Stine Industries, came to our office with a petition that their products were being re-packaged illegally by some rice processors.
“Stine Industries came to NAFDAC with a Certificate of Incorporation and the trade mark in 2016 for NAFDAC registration number but the state government surfaced with the same trade mark in 2017.
“There is no way the Ministry of Commerce and Industry can give one trade mark to two individuals or companies.
“We went on a raid and discovered that in truth, there were products branded ‘Anambra Rice’ but with no NAFDAC registration number,” she said.
The deputy director stressed that there were a lot of dangers in consuming unregistered food items, including rice.
According to her, rice has the tendency of harbouring aflatoxin and heavy metals called arsenic, which can cause cancer and kidney diseases.
“The Federal Government is pleased with efforts to promote the local industry but at the same time, it is concerned with the health of the people.
“The idea here is not to witch-hunt the rice processors or to throw them out of business but our aim is solely to protect the consumers,” she said.
Essenwa said that the suspension was aimed at enabling the state government and Stine Industries to resolve their differences, while maintaining good manufacturing policies for food production in the country.
Responding, Mr Leo Imoka, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, appealed to the agency to give more time to the two parties resolve their differences.
He said that the state government was taking steps to acquire appropriate marketing authorisation for its rice production concerns.
He said that the state government had registered the trade mark with the Federal Ministry of Trade, Investment and Industry for the production of five commodities, including cassava, honey and rice.
“This is because we heard that the Federal Government wanted to ban rice and that states should help in the mass production of rice, knowing the disadvantages of importing rice.
“The state government keyed into all off-taker programmes for rice production in the country, which has attracted a lot of rice farmers, processors and marketers and led to an increase in rice production.
“In order not to make the rice affordable to our citizens, we opened with the brand name `Anambra Rice’ to differentiate our rice from that of other rice producers until we are able to register under an umbrella with NAFDAC.’’
Imoka said that an inter-ministerial committee was set up by the government to accredit rice producers and processors so as to ensure that only those with standard production environment were allowed to use the brand name.