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Development partners call for food fortification sensitisation

By Femi Ibirogba
17 September 2021   |   3:40 am
Development partners at the forefront of driving global nutrition security have called for food fortification sensitisation and local patronage of premixes in Africa’s most populous country.

A trader display farm produce at Wuse Market, Abuja, Nigeria. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Development partners at the forefront of driving global nutrition security have called for food fortification sensitisation and local patronage of premixes in Africa’s most populous country.

The development partners, who spoke at a food fortification and digitalisation roundtable, organised by TechnoServe Nigeria, under its ‘Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF)’ programme, said despite the severity of hidden hunger in the country, many Nigerians still did not understand fortification in foods.

They added that collaboration among regulatory agencies and stakeholders across the food value chains would help to generate the energy, expertise and capacity to attain fortification targets in the country and drive the growth of local pre-mix industry.

According to them, Nigeria’s data on multiple levels of nutrition derivation shows that fortification is no longer a choice but a must in the country.

“The general public still does not know what fortification is all about. There is a need for sensitisation and the government has demonstrated to us that it can be done,” said Philomena Orji, Country Director, Hellen Keller International.

“A few years ago, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) did the “Shine Your Eye” campaign with medication. If we can put the same effort into fortification, then we can increase the demand for fortified products and achieve our fortification goals,” she noted.

She called for collaboration among government agencies to ensure effective monitoring, while also calling for industry-wide collaboration to address fortification challenges.

Speaking also, Joyce Akpata, Head, Policy and Advocacy, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), urged Nigeria to encourage local production of premixes, noting that the sector plays a significant role in the country’s quest for tackling malnutrition and hidden hunger.

“Food processors need to patronise local premix manufacturers and the government needs to provide incentives and create an enabling environment for the industry to thrive locally,” Akpata said.

“As much as we are trying to eradicate hidden hunger, we should build businesses in the process as well,” she added.

The experts stressed that better nutrition translates into better health and a more productive economy that can withstand the pandemic.

“Food fortification is one intervention that reaches all and can help lift other societal goals,” says Nemat Hajeebhoy, Chief of Nutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Speaking on the importance of technology to the country’s fortification landscape, the experts urged agencies and stakeholders to systematically leverage digital and technological tools to ensure fortification compliance at production and market levels to increase trust.

Project Manager, SAPFF, Ayodele Tella, said: “Digitisation of business processes and food system interactions holds the potential to transform the way key stakeholders within the Nigerian food fortification landscape (including input suppliers) track their performances and contribute towards increased visibility and transparency.

“Harnessing the opportunity to adopt and strengthen the use of timely digital data, alongside investments in automation by industry, could have significant implications on how food fortification and national food systems serve as a transformation tool in ensuring the achievement of public health goals.”

A professor at the Department of Food and Chemical Sciences, Bells University of Technology, Offa, Olugbenga Ogunmoyela, said that FX volatility, ports congestion, logistics issues, poor handling of premixes, and high cost of production, among others, had continued to impact fortification compliance in the country.

To address these issues, he urged processors to take responsibility, and called for review and harmonisation of the HSCode for premixes.