3rd October 2016 – How food preservation technology’ll boost Nigerian markets’ competitiveness
Stories by Steve Agbota
Food handling and preservation processes in some of the nation’s oldest markets have become a major challenge for wellness and nutrition security in the country.
It is estimated that about 50 per cent of perishable farm produce including fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers and about 30 per cent of food grains like maize, millet, rice are lost after harvest or before getting to the market due to lack of modern preservation facilities in Nigeria and other West African countries.
Ideally, food preservation in advanced country ensures food security, boosts nation’s economy; generate more incomes for both farmers and the sellers as technologies are put in place to preserve the fresh food from the farm. It was revealed that foods to be consumed in America in the next 30 years have already been preserved.
Statistically, tomatoes has the highest priorities with domestic demand of 2.5 million tonnes of fresh product annually in Nigeria with national production of 1.8 million tonnes. However, wastages of over 760.320 tonnes and import bill of N20 billion make up for the short fall in local production.
Nigeria records very high import of products, which it can conveniently produce locally. The country’s exports are frequently rejected internationally as they fail to meet international standards required for export.
Though, Nigeria pays heavily to import its gains. It earns very little from the export of its produce as so much losses are recorded after harvest. These rejections are said to be caused by a number of factors including poor storage facilities, lack of processing facilities, poor or non-existing markets, transportation challenges and even lack of knowledge or capacity in food preservation, poor and inadequate power supply.
Nigeria is one of the countries where fruits and vegetables grow in and out of season, but processing and preservation challenges often lead to huge post-harvest losses. Post-harvest losses are caused by factors like fruit pest diseases, poor preservation of harvested produces, poor transportation of harvested produces due to bad roads, lack of storage facilities such as cold rooms, silos and properly ventilated warehouses.
It is high time, Nigeria considered how it can bring in global agencies such as UKAID, World Bank, DFID to intervene and improve facilities in the area of food handling and preservation processes, especially in big markets, including Mile 12, Mushin, Idi-oro, Oyingbo and others across the country.
DFID, UK Aid to the rescue
Daily Sun visited most of these markets to ask both the sellers and buyers the area of possible investments and needs. Market leaders and traders however, disclosed that any investments from global agencies would be welcome.
Only recently, the United Kingdom showed interest to invest in the Lagos Mile 12 market, to raise it to international standards as part of Department for International Development (DFID) projects in Nigeria. According to the Permanent Secretary of the United Kingdom for DFID, James Wharton, the investment was in line with its continued support to Nigeria by the foreign government. He added that the market offered lots of investment potential.
He hinted that a lot more work needed to be done in the market to ensure it delivered what the people expect from it. Wharton said that the UK government would play significant role to support the market men and women to add value to the produce.
However, he identified lack of infrastructural development including flooring of the market as major areas of urgent attention, as the quality of its packaging was yet to meet international standard.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Mile 12 Market Management Committee and Chairman Perishable Food Stuff Market Association, Haruna Muhammed, said the investment opportunity by the UK would bring a lot of relief to the market, lamenting that the facility had never benefited from government intervention since its inception.
Muhammed admitted: “there are investment need in the market in over 40 years of its existence there had never been any government assistance. We need assistance from both the government and the World Bank. The little improvement you see in the market is the efforts of the present management of the market.”
A pepper seller, Abiodun Alade, said that farmers, traders and consumers have problems with storage of farm products in Mile12 market. A lot of products coming in to the market, especially perishables, get wasted and the farmers get no value for their efforts with traders as well recording huge losses.”
She: “if there any technology that can help us to prevent our products from getting spoilt, we would be happy to welcome it. If you buy pepper or tomato today and if you don’t sell it under three days, it would get deteriorated. It means we are running at a loss and sometimes, we get these things on credit. We also want the World Bank to give us loans to trade because it has not been easy especially in the era of change. Government should come and help us.”
The Baba Oja General, Mushin Local Government, Alhaji Bolaji Awoyemi, said that there is need to invest in food preservation technology in Nigerian markets, saying the way some of the foods people consume are handled and packaged calls for concern.
He added: “If you see the way butchers handle meat in the market, sometimes you might not want to eat it. When I went to Saudi, I saw onion and pepper that was well preserved and when they brought them out, it was as if they just brought them from the farm afresh. And they said the onion and the pepper were produced about two months ago from the farm. In Mushin market, you cannot bring pepper without selling it between two or three days, it will start deteriorating and same with tomatoes.
“If you the see the way they package meat in Mecca, you would appreciate it. You can’t see someone cutting meat in the market or hawking it on the street. The meat is being packaged inside cartons and well preserved. When you go to the market and buy the meat, you get home, all you need to do, put it inside water because it is already frozen.
Some people cannot finish selling a cow in one day while some can. The remaining ones left unsold need to be preserved but it is unfortunate that we don’t have the technology that can do that in Nigeria.”
Most of the traders who deal in food stuffs and perishable items in Mushin and Idi-oro markets, said that food preservation would enhance food security and people would not be hungry because there would be enough food once it is preserved technolohi.
Mr. Ogunleye Sunday, the Secretary of Idi-Oro Market, said the market would welcome anybody coming to invest in food preservation.
He added: “You see in America, foods that they are going to eat in the next 30 years is available apart from the one they are still doing now. If there is good infrastructure, we will welcome it; who doesn’t want to stay in a very good environment especially for health reasons.”
FG woos youths to agriculture
The Federal Government in collaboration with other policy makers and international agencies is determined to implement attractive agricultural policies that will entice and engage Nigerian youths to farming.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, implored Nigerian youths to return to commercial/mechanised agriculture in order to curb the looming hunger in the country.
He said: “Nigeria will have a bleak future in terms of food if we do not plan now. Nigeria consumes seven million tons of rice annually and the fact that we largely depend on other countries like Thailand and Malaysia for this quantity of rice is of great concern, so we are introducing mechanised agriculture to encourage our youths.”
Chief Ogbeh made the call while delivering a keynote address at the official launch of the First conference of the “Feed the Future Nigeria Agriculture Policy Project,” a five year, $12.5 million initiative. It is a joint effort between Michigan State University (MSU) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Nigeria Strategy Support programme (NSSP) funded by USAID-Nigeria.
The Minister decried the fact that agriculture has been neglected in the past thirty years due to the discovery and reliance on oil for our revenue.
According to him, the need for us to attain food sufficiency is not only for Nigeria but also for neighboring countries like Chad, Niger, Sudan and Mali who depend on us for food.
Chief Ogbeh called for the development and use of improved seed varieties in order to attain increase in yield per hectare. He announced that special fertilisers have been developed to suit different soil types in the country.
He also said that lakes and dams are being built in states to make it possible for an all year round farming to take place.
In a goodwill message at the event, the Mission Director USAID, Mr Michael Harvey, said that he was pleased with the priority given to agriculture by the present administration with the production of the ‘Green Alternative’ agriculture policy document. He however said he was struck with the remarkable underdevelopment in the Nigerian agricultural sector, adding that Nigeria would not be capable of leading Africa if it did not have food security and therefore called for the implementation of the project with urgency.
The goal of the ‘Feed the Future Project’ is to promote inclusive agricultural productivity growth, improved nutritional outcomes, enhanced livelihood resilience for men and women through an improved policy enabling environment.
Modify TSA management to stimulate agric –FAWN urges FG
The Food and Agriculture Writers Forum of Nigeria (FAWN), has viewed with deep concern the spiraling prices of food, increasing hunger and malnutrition arising from unfavourable investment climate and weak naira that has affected the agro-allied sector particularly.
It has therefore, called on the Federal Government under President Buhari to consider modifying the operation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) to ease cash flow in favour of agricultural production in the country. It said that while Nigerians play the waiting game to see the nation leverage on agriculture as a game changer in the quest for diversification, the government should tweak the management of the TSA to tilt towards more profitable agro-allied activities using the banks.
In a release signed by the Coordinating Secretary, Mr. Fabian Odum, Food and Agriculture Journalist and Media Consultant, the Forum, noted as well that the increasing rate of inflation has also shrunk the purchasing power of the Nigerian consumer on a weekly basis, leaving little to cheer as the nation marks her 56th independence anniversary.
The forum believes that with proper monitoring and supervision, agriculture sector players would access more credits, very low digit interest rate loans through the banks. It observed that young agropreneurs and agriculture SMEs would face reduced hurdles and increase rapport with the usual banking channels.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the policy arrowhead, it observes has been handicapped by funds and would not overly press the Executive for it even when it is absolutely necessary to create good environment for production empowerment.
For instance, the plan to reduce wheat importation by 50 per cent in 2017/2018 remains a dream because the fund needed to finance the procurement of about 15,000 metric tons of seed to cover 150,000 hectares estimated at over N2bn is unavailable.
Effectively, only Kano and Zamfara states made attempts of the 13 wheat-growing states to do the crop at the launch of the CBN Anchor Borrowers scheme, December 2015.
To further bolster dollar earnings and shore up the naira through agriculture, the forum called for support for growing and export of cashew, mango, sesame, ginger, garlic, flowers among others including processed aquaculture products targeted at ethnic markets in Europe and north America.
FAWN said the nation can, and would get out of recession and economic slide if leadership would create the environment to encourage and protect players in the sector and act as if oil were a distraction.