Stakeholders strategise to upscale fortified food production
Following the success achieved in the fortification of some processed food products like salt, cooking oil, cereal flour and wheat flour, stakeholders in the food processing sector and development agencies have strategized on measures to improve local processing of fortified foods in Nigeria and the sub-Saharan African region.
Leveraging the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF), a four-year initiative by TechnoServe and Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) to support local food processors in producing more fortified foods to combat malnutrition, the stakeholders note that food fortification remains one of the cost effective interventions that can be used for development.
Speaking at the unveiling of the project in Lagos, recently, the Minister of Trade and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah said there is a need for government and local processors to collaborate to achieve the objectives of the project.
Although the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has committed $10 million to the project in the sub-Saharan African region, Enelamah stated that the collaboration with local processors will increase competitiveness of nutritious foods and ensure Nigerians access quality foods to meet their daily dietary needs.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade and Investment, Mallam Aminu Bisala, the minister said there is a strong link between nutrition and economic development, noting that a World Bank report revealed that poor nutrition may reduce countries’ GDPs by three per cent.
He said: “As a government, we have responsibility to ensure our citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones – women and children – have access to nutritious foods. We will also continue to make business case for nutrition. It is important that the private sector does not see its investment in production of fortified foods as mere response to corporate social responsibility”.
The minister added government had been engaging the private sector players to increase quantity of affordable fortified foods in the market, with the aim to end stunting that is affecting 37 per cent of children under the age of five.
The Director of Nutrition for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in United States, Shawn Baker, said the intervention was necessitated by low technical expertise and compliance among food processors in three African countries – Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania.
He said the project was created to bridge the gap in compliance and promote technical assistance for the food industry to meet the government standards, as well as ensure that the success recorded for some food items is sustained.
He said: “Almost half of children that die in Africa yearly die because of lack of access to nutritious foods. It has been established that fortified foods are essential for physical and mental development of children.”
At Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we believe tackling challenges against production of fortified foods is important to promote global health. “We are supporting this initiative to galvanise the private sector players to ensure that the foods they are taking to the market is health for consumption. That is, the foods must contain the basic nutrients that human body needs.
“We also discovered a disconnection between the government’s mandate to increase fortified foods and what the food industry produces, which is a problem of compliance. So this project is helping to bridge the gap in terms of technical assistance for the food industry to meet the government standards.”
The Country Director of TechnoServe, Larry Umunna, said the partners would mobilise their experienced consultants and resources to solve technical and investment challenges facing local food processors.
He said: “We will this platform to ensure continuous engagement with government and private sector players is maintained, with the aim to ensuring we restore the glory of our food industry. Nigerians deserve fortified foods.”