Food fair for all – businessday news you can trust businessday news you can trust gas leak in car

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To say it as it is, it comes as a piece of good news that the upcoming Food Fair is meant to broaden the continental approach to food security and give investors value for their resources. For instance, Food West Africa as it is tagged that comes up early May is aimed at providing a unique and veritable platform for food entrepreneurs to showcase their food and drink, equipment, food services and hospitality to thousands of influential decision makers. This would no doubt positively impact on individuals and corporate organizations from across the West African food and drink industry.

It is also meant to become the largest platform for both international and regional food and beverage companies to meet, network and establish business ties especially in Africa’s largest economy – Nigeria. More than 100 companies from across the world are expected to participate from countries such as China, Germany, Russia, Spain, Srilanka, Turkey and the UK. This is a welcome development.

Specifically, the participants will meet with major suppliers and exhibitors from all over the world. They will connect with potential investors and trading partners and establish contact with manufacturers who may be looking for local representatives. The added advantages are that they will learn about new product launches and latest technologies in the food industry. By networking with over 4200 industry professionals, value will be added to their businesses.

The significance of this noble vision underscores the importance of food to man. Good, nutritious food is undoubtedly man’s most basic need, ranking above shelter and clothing. It is man’s constant contract with life. Simply put, we cannot do without it because it is the fuel that powers the body for everyday’s activities. And it is essential for all-round health too.

Packed full with much-needed nutrients, we utilize the carbohydrates to give us energy, the proteins to build the body cells or replace worn-out ones. Fats and oils, collectively called lipids provide us warmth and sometimes energy when carbohydrates are in short supply. Micro-nutrients, or bio-chemicals that are available in smaller quantities such as vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals (naturally occurring plant substances that fight disease) play their vital role by ensuring the general wellbeing of the human body.

The problem with our eating habits, however include the fact that we sometimes do not choose wisely, when it has to do with what to eat and in the right combination. Too often we look down on some important food items, especially fruits, nuts and vegetables not knowing the significant functions they perform to keep us healthy, hale and hearty.

So, how do we maximize these immense nutritional and the attendant economic benefits? That is the million-Naira question, especially in Nigeria where according to Dr. Adesina:“We are importing products that we can easily find local alternatives for that will reduce our import bill such as the N635 bn being spent on wheat importation every year.

However, the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian American Agricultural Empowerment Programme Limited, Chief Temitope Ajayi has stated that the situation is reversible. In a similar vein, Dr. Geraldine Ikenna the Director of Nigerian Agricultural Products Export Promotion Initiative holds a similar view.

For instance, Ikenna is of the opinion that there should be greater involvement of the private sector. That is why the Food West Africa Fair is coming at the right time to enhance the value chain. Similarly, massive commercial and merchandised agricultural engagements will provide jobs for thousands of unemployed Nigerians and accelerate industrialization, especially with the development of SMEs.

The food fair should provide answers to the situation whereby out of the 84 million hectares of arable land only about 40 per cent was being cultivated, while less than 10 per cent was being optimized. As a way forward Richard Hargrave, the Managing Director of Dizengof West Africa Limited is of the opinion that government should have no business with agriculture. Said he: “Instead, it should focus on infrastructure essential for Nigeria to grow more of its own food.” Government needs to be focused on assisting in building infrastructure to help the private sector to build a successful agricultural sector

But one area that the government could still be useful is funding. According to Samuel Afolyan, the Executive Director, Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute, ARMTI doing so would boost industrialization and food security. He urged the central bank of Nigeria, CBN to make more money available to support capacity building of entrepreneurs, especially in agric products that could encourage more people to venture into farming.

He has therefore, appealed to the National Assembly to make laws that would make the environment more conducive for agric business people including farmers and investors. The other issues that should be tackled frontally include the quality of machinery involved in food production, processing and preservation. It has been observed that most of the tractors imported from China, India, and Pakistan do not work here in Nigeria because they were never made for our peculiar environment.

In terms of funding, experts feel that the non-agric sector could go with 20 to 25 per cent interest rate but such cannot be sustained in the agric sector. Like the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN , some believe that more should be done towards increasing the skills acquisition of local farmers. That would enhance the value chain from land preparation through processing to preservation. That explains why several get spoilt easily without being useful to the small scale farmers.

Beyond all these, more funding should go to research institutes as it obtains in the UK, US, China ,India and Brazil. They should collaborate with the private sector to increase the capacity of women and those willing to capitalize on research findings for mass production.

Local machine fabricators and millers need more encouragement from the government by the provision of stable electric power. It is unacceptable that Nigeria leads the world in cassava tuber production but is not on th world map of cassava starch production. It is surprising that our borders remain porous for the importation of all manner of food products most of which has the raw materials exported from the country.