An expert in the agriculture sector, Mrs. Chi Tola has called for review of stringent policies for obtaining food processing permit by small holder farmers who are itching to go into processing activities.
Tola said there is the need to review several policies and monitor the activities of some of the food regulatory bodies in Nigeria.
She said that food processing industry in Nigeria is increasingly now being seen as a potential source for driving the rural economy as it brings about synergy between the consumer, industry and agriculture.
According to her, a well-developed outcome focused food processing industry is expected to increase farm gate prices, reduce wastages, ensure value addition, promote crop diversification, generate employment opportunities as well as export earnings.
She regretted that currently small processors are facing bottlenecks in obtaining necessary permits and or endorsement for their small agro processed products.
“We are calling on the federal government to not only monitor the activities of these regulatory bodies but also review the regulatory policies to make it small processors friendly.
Include specifics and dedicated policies and special consideration for Agriculture and its value chain.
This call has become imperative now as many small holder farmers who are willing to venture into agro processing are having difficulty getting regulatory permits” she noted.
Speaking further, Chi Tola who is also the executive director Women in Agricultural Advancement and Sustainability Africa, (WAASA), argued that a small holder farmer who has decided to go into Okra farming and processing, seeking to have a NAFDAC permit to process and package okra for distribution and sale in Nigeria should not be made to pay so much with extensive visits, pointing that Federal Government should review some of these requirements to accommodate small scale processors.
She said, “Standards must be high but fees and procedures must be accommodating for us to really maximize the economic growth potentials in the agro value chain and evaluate the extent of the government’s efforts in supporting local food processors.
Most of the sales outlets in Nigeria now are becoming aware of the need for products sold at their shops etc to be NAFDAC registered, but the question remains, how many of these small processors can afford the fees? Does processing of these farm harvests require all that is being asked for by the regulating body?”.
She notes that while change in emerging markets is dramatic, the developed economies are also experiencing a shift in consumption patterns. “Nigerians also are more health conscious than ever before. They are worried about the content of their food, its origin, freshness, and safety. These consumers are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of food production and its impact on the environment. Training programs are on going in the areas of packaging, processing organically, preservation etc, after these action is required” she suggested.