By Funmilola Gboteku
The Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) has urged the Federal Government to strengthen food standards and safety systems to reposition Nigerian foods for global acceptability.
Prof. Abu Oneh, National President of NIFST, made the remark on Thursday during the ninth Regional Food Science and Technology Summit/ NIFST Day Celebration in Lagos.
The theme of the event is “Repositioning Nigerian Foods for Global Market Accessibility”.
Oneh, who was represented by Dr Bola Osinowo, First Vice President of NIFST, said that the key challenges facing Nigerian foods in the global market stems from issues of food safety.
Oneh said the challenges faced by the food sector included lack of awareness of the socio-economic importance of food safety, inability to enforce compliance with local, regional, international standards and global best practices.
He noted that other issues were inadequate infrastructure and resources to support scientific risk analysis and upgrading of food safety regulatory system.
“We are also faced with inefficient food supply chain, standard method of produce inspection, grading food safety and poor traceability system customised to Nigerian conditions for both large and small scale growers.
“There is an urgent need to strengthen the existing food standard and safety systems at the federal, state and local level to achieve a safe and reliable food supply chain within Nigeria and beyond,” Oneh said.
He said that policies from the national to the global level needed to support the transition toward sustainable food and farming systems in a coherent and targeted manner.
Oneh said that ensuring stakeholder coordination as well as creating a standard system for food safety inspection, origin tracking and nutrition labelling was necessary.
“Nigeria spends huge amount of scarce foreign currency on importation of various food products compared to what it earns from export.
“We need to promote locally processed foods globally, because this will not only boost the economy of the country but also increase the availability of healthy locally sourced foods in a sustainable manner,” Oneh said.
He noted that NIFST as a body would continue to contribute to the provision of skilled manpower which was essential for promotion of the production of pre-packaged, safe and globally competitive finished foods in Nigeria for exports.
Oneh said NIFST would achieve this by constituting working groups to address respective technical gaps in packaging, warehousing and preservation methods for agricultural produce along the value chain.
Also, Mr Olugbenga Aina, Chairman of NIFST Lagos Chapter, said that the need to encourage local industries and farmers on the key indicator of food accessibility which included crop production, market access and diet diversity could not be overemphasized.
He noted that the demand for Nigerian food globally was on the increase, adding that the food had to meet standard dietary needs for active and healthy life.
In her remarks, Mrs Kikelomo Amoreoluwa, Vice Chairman of NIFST Lagos Chapter, said the event was organised to discuss the bottlenecks hindering the exports of Nigerian foods globally.
She said it was also aimed at encouraging food science and technology graduates to work in the sector, to gain certain experiences for them to be better food processors and grasp good agricultural practices.
Speaking on food safety and security, Mrs Veronica Alaba, Chairman, Local Organising Committee, NIFST, said it was necessary to follow standard procedures before exporting foods out of the country to avoid rejection.
She said that farmers had a big role to play in ensuring food safety because they were the ones saddled with food production.
Alaba said it was essential for them to follow good agricultural practices by ensuring that they use the right fertilisers for planting crops.
She also urged farmers to desist from using harmful chemicals to ripen fruits, noting that such could cause severe health issues for consumers.