Unlocking the full potential of the food industry in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the food industry is one of the largest sectors of the economy accounting for 21 percent of annual national GDP, with about 70 percent of the population involved in agricultural activities (Statista 2019).

Unlocking the full potential of the food industry in Nigeria

Beyond food production, the Association of Fast Foods and Confectioners of Nigeria also estimates Nigeria's fast-food industry to be worth 250 billion naira annually (Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, 2016).

Although, the country boasts of over 34 million acres of arable land; leads globally in the production and exportation of sorghum, palm, cocoa beans and nuts and has a growing local market; Nigeria is yet to be self-sufficient in food production and security.

The potential in the Nigeria food sector is huge, however; the sector is faced with many challenges, amongst which are; little investments in research and development, poor technologies for production, storage and processing of food products, inadequate financing for local food producers and policy bottlenecks.

In this piece, we highlighted three critical areas that must be addressed to ensure steady growth in Nigeria’s food industry.

Although small and medium enterprises and multinational corporations are a significant segment of Nigerian food production sector, smallholder farmers at the grassroots level make up the majority of key players in the industry. Yet, these farmers still rely on traditional agricultural practices, crude tools and manual labour to cultivate their produce. They do not have access to efficient agricultural machinery to scale up their production and technologies that can offer helpful advisories on weather conditions and soil quality.

In realizing greater value in the food industry, local farmers ought to be the first touchpoint. They should be empowered by the ministry of agriculture through structured support scheme in the form of soft loans, training and incentives to grow them into producers of food on larger industrial scales as well as improving the quality of their produce to required global standards.

Post-harvest losses claim $9 billion worth of food produced in Nigeria yearly (AgroNigeria 2017), with perishables such as fruits and vegetables accounting for 70% of this. This untoward situation is facilitated by lack of advanced storage and processing facilities in the country. Without proper storage and preservation technologies, perishable foods at the peak of the harvest season arrive at the market in excess of demand which eventually gets spoilt, resulting in little to nothing available in the market during off-season.

Also, most farmers rely on traditional processing methods like manual sorting and winnowing to prepare their products for consumption. This results in low output and low quality crops.

The need to improve processing and storage cannot be overemphasized because produce can be stored up for sales during off-season period, this will be beneficial to the economy, the farmer and consumers as well.

Research, innovation and development are still greatly underdeveloped in the Nigerian agricultural sector. With very few investors in the industry, there is a lack of funding for research into opportunities to improve seedlings, soil quality or processing and storage technologies. In turn, local farmers suffer from ignorance and creativity.

Investment in agricultural research is critical in supporting local food production. With research, farmers can be equipped with improved seedlings and advanced farming techniques, to improve food quality and boost farm output.

Dedicated to feeding the Nigerian population, Honeywell has remained a leading food processing company for over twenty years with a vision to encourage local production and expand the market for domestic food processing (Business Focus Magazine, 2020). Through several projects, including its agreement with the Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, Honeywell has engaged local farmers, supported research centers and is realizing the potential of the food sector one grain at a time (Guardian, 2016).

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