As President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration continues to implement steps to improve the economic fortunes of the country, experts have called for the strengthening of fortified food processes.
Doing this, they said, will not only aid the diversification of the economy, it would also help ensure that the country has a healthy populace.
They made the call in Lagos this week at the launch of a project, which is aimed to utilize a market-based approach to help food companies in Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania increase the availability of nutritious foods.
The project – Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods, which was launched by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah, who was represented by Aminu Bisala, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry.
One of the speakers at the event, the Programme Coordinator of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council, Edirin Akemu, assured food manufacturers that the Nigerian government is doing all it can to fully incorporate them into its economic recovery and growth plan.
She said, “The President Buhari Administration has embarked on an ambitious Industrialisation Programme aimed at increasing the contribution of manufacturing to GDP by 250 percent over five years, making Nigeria a manufacturing hub for West Africa and diversifying the economy. One of the critical success factors of this Industrialisation Program is partnering with the private sector in formulating policies and strategies in furtherance of the Industrialisation Programme.”
Akemu said the primary objective of the Industrial Council is implementing targeted projects and initiatives that will accelerate industrialisation using private expertise and capital.
In his paper presentation titled “The Nigerian Food Processing Industry: Competitiveness, Opportunities, Challenges”, the Managing Director of the Foods Division of Flour Mills Nigeria, Marc Coakley, called for government-led advocacy to ensure the programme succeeds.
This, according to him, is vital because the country stands to benefit greatly from it, especially as food fortification is the most cost effective nutrition intervention with the highest reach”.
Unfortunately, he said, “Food Fortification in Nigeria is concentrated on relatively few categories. There should be a significant scope to expand on this as the benefits are clear but so are the costs.”
Consequently, Coakely said, “There is a need for government-led advocacy to promote consumer appreciation of fortification; ensure level playing field on compliance and attract private sector investment in fortification”.
Also present at the launch is the Director General/ Chief Executive of the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, Babatunde Irukera; President Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, GAIN Canada, Dominic Schofield; Managing Director/CEO of Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou among others.
The SAPFF project is a four-year, 10 million Dollar initiative of TechnoServe in partnership with Partners in Food Solutions (PTS).