As the federal government and the organised private sector move towards making Nigeria self-reliance in food production, the Organisation for Technology Advancement of Cold Chain in West Africa (OTACCWA), has revealed that the country records an annual loss of at least N9 billion post-harvest of perishable foods. The body has also established that out of the colossal N9 billion post-harvest losses, about 50 per cent is recorded on fruits and vegetables.
In an interview with THISDAY, the President of the organisation, Augustine Okoruwa, said his group observed that one of the major causes of post-harvest losses in the agricultural and pharmaceutical sector was lack of adequate cold chain facility. He pointed out that cold chain sector should be regarded as an integral part of the economic and agricultural development agenda of Nigeria, if truly the country is desirable to solve the problem associated with locally produced food.
Okoruwa, who stated that with cold chain there would be sustainable food security and improved nutrition in Nigeria and the rest of W/Africa, added that it was a sine qua non for handling perishable foods to deliver the nutritious content that is full of nutrients that human being needs.
He said: “This encompasses perishable commodities, fresh food and vegetables, berry, meat, poultry, sea food and pharmaceutical products that require cold chain like vaccines.”
To further expatiate the importance of the value chain to the economy, the Vice President of the organisation, Tunde Okoya, made reference to the recent CBN policy on restriction of foreign exchange for the importation of milk, saying it would bring about an investment spin-off to the Nigeria’s fledgling economy if Cold Chain System is well harnessed.
“There is need to have a Cold Chain system in operation right from the farm gate where the milk is obtained, to the aggregation point; where all the milk is collected before sending it to a major processor or packaging company. Even after it has been processed and bottled into Tetra packs or bottles, it still must be transported (which could require Cold Trucks),” he said.
Bearing in mind that Nigeria has a poorly developed Cold Chain industry, Okoya noted that some challenges would be recorded with the absence of matured Cold Chain operation in place.
“This is why the government must come up with strong policies to salvage the situation. Industry and government policies are made to develop sectors that are perceived to be glitch and such policy (like that of CBN) at the end of the day have impact of cascading to other sectors. That is why this new CBN policy is a welcome development,” he added.
In the long run, Okoya was of the opinion that these two sectors, when developed, have the capacity to employ many Nigerians in a country where unemployment is presently at 23 per cent.