…Say fortification no longer a choice
Development partners at the forefront of driving global nutrition security have called for food fortification sensitization and local patronage of premixes in Nigeria.
The development partners who spoke at the Food Fortification and Digitalization Roundtable organized by TechnoServe Nigeria under its Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) program said despite the severity of hidden hunger in the country, many Nigerians still do not understand fortification in food products.
They counseled that collaboration among regulatory agencies and stakeholders across the food value chains would help generate the energy, expertise, and capacity to attain fortification targets in the country and drive the growth of the local premixes 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 sensitization and the government has demonstrated to us that it can be done,” said the country director, Hellen Keller International, Philomena Orji.
“A few years ago, 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 collaborations to address fortification challenges.
Speaking also, head – policy and advocacy, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Joyce Akpata, urged Nigeria to encourage local production of premixes, saying it played a significant role in the country’s quest for tackling malnutrition and hidden hunger.
“Food processors need to patronize local premix manufacturers and the government needs to provide incentives and create an enabling environment for the industry to thrive locally.
“As much as we are trying to eradicate hidden hunger, we should build businesses in the process as well,” she added.
The experts noted that food fortification is an intervention that is proven and known for a long time as long as it is done the right way and made available for the citizenry at the right price.
They 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,” said the chief of Nutrition, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nemat Hajeebhoy.
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.
According to them, digitalization helps optimize potential for generating economic value from digital tracking of other quality parameters, reducing the volume of tests and refocusing resources in more critical areas.
“Digitization of business processes and food system interactions holds the potential to transform the way that key stakeholders within the Nigerian food fortification landscape (including input suppliers), track their performance and contribute towards increased visibility and transparency,” said Ayodele Tella, project manager, SAPFF.
“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,” Tella said.
Highlighting challenges hindering fortification compliance, a professor at department of food and chemical sciences, Bells University of Technology, Offa, Olugbenga Ogunmoyela, noted 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 liability and be responsible, while calling for review and harmonization of the HSCode for premixes for transparency.
Also, he called for effective monitoring by regulatory agencies, building capacity for laboratory analysis, and proper handling/storage of premixes to prevent value reduction.