By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As Nigerians continue to depend heavily on importation of various goods and services, the Federal Government, Tuesday, assured that livestock products importation will be reduced with implementation of the National Dairy Policy including other issues affecting the industry.
The assurance was given by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Ernest Umakhihe, in an opening remark while declaring open the National Dairy Policy Validation Workshop organised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, held in Abuja.
Umakhihe also described the National Dairy Policy as apt and articulate, which is in accordance with the vision of the Federal Government for the dairy industry.
As we are all aware, policy development of this nature takes series of steps to arrive at the desired end of meeting the aspirations of all critical stakeholders that would directly and indirectly be affected by its operation. We have carefully followed all the preliminary steps to this stage which is validation of the draft policy document.
He also acknowledged that fact that there has been a continuous drive towards meeting national sufficiency in dairy production to reduce the huge amount spent on importation of dairy products in order to bridge the huge gap between supply and demand.
According to him, while explaining pointed that policy development of this nature takes series of steps to arrive at the desired end of meeting the aspirations of all critical stakeholders that would directly and indirectly be affected by its operation, which the Ministry has carefully followed all the preliminary steps to the stage of validation of the draft policy document.
He said: “This meeting cannot come at a better time than now because a National Policy for dairy and dairy products in Nigeria is long overdue.
“Successive Administrations had made efforts to close the gap through programmes such as Dairy Development Programme, National Livestock Breed Improvement Programme, among others thus creating opportunity for private sector participation.
“The draft policy will support the implementation of the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Plan (NATIP) and FMARD. It will give defined direction for the country’s dairy industry where all players at whatever scale will be expected to abide by rules of operation, in terms of production, processing and marketing of dairy products in Nigeria. I am glad that we are gradually approaching the stage of finalizing the draft document by this validation workshop.
“This effort at putting in place a National Dairy Policy for the country is apt for the realization of the vision of the Federal Government articulated through the change approach and a standard practice to be applied at every level of society, public and private, towards a pragmatic national development.
“This approach is to significantly reduce importation of livestock and livestock products and at the same time stimulate exports to enhance national income generation. The private sector will remain in the lead while government will provide the enabling environment through policies, infrastructure, systems control processes and oversight support.”
However, he (Umakhihe) reminded participants to see the validation workshop as call to national duty to produce a document that will outlive the present generation, hence should give their best and expertise that would positively contribute to the dairy industry in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, in a welcome address, the Director Animal Husbandry Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Winnie Lai-Solarin, pointed that the role of the dairy industry cannot be overemphasized as far as quality nutrition and overall food security are concerned.
According to Lai-Solarin, the dairy subsector has been impeded with many issues and institutional challenges that have prevented its growth alongside other agricultural subsectors.
“The major issue is that of low milk yield, poor handling and post-harvest losses of dairy products. We need to continually improve the productivity of the dairy animals genetically, health and management practices to be able to respond to market-driven productivity objectives. There is need for a mechanism to effectively regulate the dairy sector at all levels starting from animal breeding, milk collection. Processing and marketing.
“The National Dairy Policy will give framework for improving productivity of the dairy sector in a well-planned and sustainable manner across the various agro-ecological zones of the country”, she stated.
In a goodwill message, Director- General, Raw Material Research Development Council, Prof Hussaini Ibrahim, who was represented by one of the directors at the Council, Dr Mary Abiareye, promised to work with the relevant agencies to upgrade the country’s diary sector while emphasizing the need for a national dairy policy as a formidable platform to rapidly develop the dairy industry for high productivity.
“This is a very important draft document having inputs from wider stakeholders that will direct and guide operations of the dairy sector.
“There is no doubt that validation of this workable policy catering the interest of every player in the diary industry will stimulate and drive a viable dairy sector.
“This is a very important draft document to guide and direct the operations of dairy products in Nigeria”, he said.
Also speaking was the Registrar, Animal Science Institute of Nigeria, Prof, Eustace Iyayi, who was represented by Bisi Akinfolarin, expressed optimism that the policy would galvanize the dairy sector.
While the Managing Partner, Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited, Temi Adegoroye, described the policy document as timely and significant milestone for the nation’s agric sector.
Adegorye also expressed hope that the policy has the capacity to guide activities and investments in the dairy subsector, which will add value and fortify production carried out by small dairy producers.