By Jimoh Babatunde
Significant progress made fortifying Nigerian staple food with micronutrients that are essential to achieve better health would have been greater if the edible oil sector was centralised.
This was revealed, Friday, when Nigerian Food Processing Companies announced progress on fortifying staple food in the last three years.
Following three years of leadership engagement by the Federal Government and CEOs of the nation’s largest food processing companies, significant progress has been made fortifying Nigerian staple foods with micronutrients that are essential to achieving better health and nutrition for all.
The data presented by international non-governmental organisation Techno Serve showed that the companies have significantly improved their compliance with food fortification standards in the span of three years.
Together, the producers reach more than 90 percent of the Nigerian population.
Speaking with selected journalists after the 3rd Annual Nigerian Food Processing and Leadership Forum, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who chaired the forum, said the private sector remains the engine of growth for the Nigerian economy.
Aliko Dangote, Chairman, Aliko Dangote Foundation, said: “By creating a common set of compliance standards, while also giving companies the tools they need to effectively fortify their foods, we are creating a sustainable path to delivering Nigerians food that will help them live healthier, more productive lives.
“Better nutrition for our consumers means better health and economic development for our nation.”
Dangote added that Edible oil fortified with Vitamin A also made progress, but to a lesser degree, with the population reached with fortified cooking oil increasing from 25 percent to 32 percent.
“Unlike the other staples, however, the edible oil companies participating in the CEO forum represent closer to 40 percent of the nation’s total production volume.
“To put the scale of these achievements in perspective, an additional 125.7 million Nigerians now have access to sugar fortified with vitamin A; an additional 73.5 million have access to wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid, and an additional 13.8 million have access to cooking oil fortified with vitamin A.”
He noted that the efforts of the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods, SAPFF, project on increasing access to adequately fortified foods to impact public health would be higher if similar successes in other staple food is recorded in edible oil.
He added that one reasons for the slow progress is that the edible oil industry is less centralised than other staple foods, requiring coordination across more stakeholders.
Re-iterating the same position, the Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, said: “Vitamin A is one of the most critical nutrients kids need to grow up healthy—but too few kids receive a sufficient amount in their diet.
“The world needs to fortify more foods with Vitamin A. The leaders in this meeting have already shown what’s possible for wheat flour, salt, and sugar.
“I hope that by the next time we meet, cooking oil will be added to the list.”
It was gathered that Techno Serve will be working on further technical assistance to oil millers who want to participate in the multi-stakeholder effort.
In addition, Techno Serve will support relevant government agencies to improve its efforts on regular testing of imported edible oil at the ports of entry.
Also speaking at the forum, the Minister of Trade, Niyi Adebayo, commended the industry leaders.
He said: “Given the impacts of Covid-19 on our economy, I am particularly impressed with the leadership we have seen from our food companies.
“Our industry leaders have shown that even during an international public health crisis and an economic crisis, we can still deliver good nutrition for all citizens, including our poorest, through production and distribution of widely-consumed fortified staple foods.”