Experts warn against re-opening borders for rice importation

Food experts in Nigeria have advised against re-opening of the Nations’ land border for the importation of rice and some other contraband commodities.

They also advocated for the value chain addition to Nigeria’s agricultural produce to make it competitive as well as change of appetite towards the consumption of made in Nigeria foods and commodities to conserve foreign exchange.

The experts gave the advice at the 40th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology with the theme: ‘Innovations and Upgrades for Food Value Chains, Competitiveness in Nigeria held in Kano state.’

The National President of the Institute, Dr Chijioke Osuji urged the Nigerian Government against succumbing to pressure of re-opening the borders for rice importation.

Highest food production
“The government must not relent in its efforts to further tighten the noose on the borders to halt rice importation.

 “It is sad to note that Nigeria, despite being the highest produce of cowpea, yam, sorghum and cash crops, still remains the highest importer of food commodities in the world, thereby draining a large chunk of our foreign exchange to import processed food.

 “Lack of strong Agric policy in the country is partly responsible for the country’s predicament while the oil boom lasted, we failed to utilise proceeds from the sector to sponsor research projects on Agriculture, due to the Government’s complacency,’’ Dr.Osuji explained. 

Strong agricultural policy
According to him, as soon as the Nigerian Government develops a strong Agriculture policy, the measure will to a large extent address the challenges of unemployment among the youths.

Similarly, Dr Osuji advised that value addition to Nigeria’s food commodities must rapidly advance in innovation and must be made very competitive for the global market.

He also called on the government to make it compulsory for the consumption of locally produced food commodities, insisting that Federal officials must take the lead in that regard.

”The challenge to provide the skills and technology required to support the national quest for economic diversification is facing us today, the Institute is ready to meet this challenge by supporting the government and investors. We are indeed the custodians of the largest repository of research and knowledge in African foods,’’ President stressed.

The Guest lecturer at the conference, Professor Leisle Nsofor of Liesle consult USA, also urged the nation to work towards upgrading locally produced food to industrial standard that could be acceptable by all.

“Common and regularly eaten foods like Akamu or Ogi (Pap) could be simulated into custard as well as beans Oloyi (sweetened beans) processed into baked beans with little value addition,’’ Professor Nsofor suggested.

A renowned farmer and former governor of Adamawa State, Murtal Nyako advocated the replacement of the nations old method of farming system with modern ones that guarantee higher yield per hector.

“Currently our yield per hector is far below the global standard due to the nature of production technique and seedlings. Most of the research institute and commercial farm centers established in the early 6O’s across the country have been abandoned and needs to be activated quickly,’’ Nyako stated.

One of the participants, Ladi Alabi said the conference has fine tuned their understanding towards adopting new strategies and ways of food production, especially enhancement of local farm produce to meet global standards.

“Nigeria holds the key to its food security challenges and growth in the economy via agriculture as such, it must begin to upgrade and admit value chain addition to its production and processing of agricultural output,’’ Participants and analysts at the conference agreed.

Mercy Chukwudiebere