Onu: Private Sector Investment in Research, Others Will Boost Local Production

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By Ugo Aliogo

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has called for increased private sector investment in research and commercialisation in order to boost local of production of made in products.

Onu, who disclosed this during a facility tour of the Nestle Flowergate Factory, Shagamu, Ogun State, noted that there is need for the private sector to partner the federal to improve research and innovation works to serve the needs of local, and international market.

He explained that May and Baker, and NASCO Foods have entered into Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry, adding that the two companies are commercialising three products that have international appeal. One of such, he added, is sickle cell anaemia, which has been commercialised and is working effectively in Nigeria and even in Europe.

Furthermore, the minister noted that the other product that was commercialised has been found to tackle malnutrition problems and high nutrition density. He urged Nestle Nigeria to indicate interest as the ministry would be willing to cooperate with it.

He explained that the present administration is committed to addressing the issue of unemployment in the country, adding that efforts are in place to make Nigeria self-sufficient in sugar production in order to meets the industrial needs of the company in that area.

He added: “There are a number of areas that I think we can assist and help you. As Minister of Science and Technology, it is my responsibility to help move Nigeria from a resourced to knowledge based economy. We are happy with the work you are doing.

“I want you to start doing researches here in Nigeria; this will help you and also help us. When you start doing research here, they will develop products that will be more sustainable to our people.

“The ones that are developed here is very good for the market and the company is making a lot of money. The products will not just be for the Nigeria market only, but also for export. We have 17 research centres in Nigeria which are under the supervision of the federal ministry of science and technology. We don’t want any of them to be commercialised, we want them to get to pilot plant levels.

“It will be a situation of doing your research and getting it up the level where it can be commercialised, then give it to the private sector to handle commercialisation aspect. For instance, if a research is given to Nestle Nigeria to commercialise, the company will make money, employ Nigerians to work here, and pay tax to government. Therefore, the money spent in the research will be recovered through this means.”

Onu commended the company for the technical man-power development efforts, which he noted is helping to provide skills to people and address poverty, while expressing hope that the company would bring more Nigerians onboard in the supply and distribution value chain.

He expressed delight with the operations taking place at the factory, adding that with the company has played significant role in meeting the nutritional needs of Nigerians through its variety of products.

“We are happy that 82 percent of the raw materials used in your production are locally sourced. We want them to get to 100 percent, because when they do that it will provide jobs for the unemployed population,” he noted.

In his remarks, the Managing Director Nestle Nigeria Plc, Mr. Maurico Alarcon, stated that the company outsources 82 percent of its agricultural raw materials including soya beans and palm oil locally, adding that it introduced a new project to help local famers to improve farming practices, increase the yield, and quality of their harvests through Grain Quality Improvement in partnership with the IFDC.

Alarcon also noted that the company organises an 18-months intensive technical training programme focused on equipping young graduates with polyvalent technology skills, training in machining, mechanical fitting operations, and automatic engineering leading to the certification examination of the London city and Guilds Technician certificate, noting that the best five students from the programme participate in additional training modules and internship in Switzerland.

He stated that in pursuit of our commitment to local sourcing of raw materials, they are involved in two major agriculture initiatives, stating that in 2011 they commenced a new project to help farmers increase the output and the quality of cassava starch in collaboration with the International Institute Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan.

The Nestle Nigeria CEO added: “The project is aimed at increasing productivity per hectare through multiplication and dissemination of high yielding cassava varieties.

“The second project is the Grain Quality improvement initiative which is aimed at ensuing high quality grains by Mycotoxin contamination through good farming and storage practices. The projects have significantly reduced the nutritional and economic losses in grains and legumes and ensure high quality raw materials for our factories.”