How Food Preservation Technology will Boost Nigerian Markets’ Competitiveness

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Food handling and preservation processes in some of the nation’s oldest markets have become a major challenge for wellness and nutrition security in the country.

It is estimated that about 50 per cent of perishable farm produce including fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers and about 30 per cent of food grains like maize, millet, rice are lost after harvest or before getting to the market due to lack of modern preservation facilities in Nigeria and other West African countries.

Ideally, food preservation in advanced country ensures food security, boosts nation’s economy; generate more incomes for both farmers and the sellers as technologies are put in place to preserve the fresh food from the farm. It was revealed that foods to be consumed in America in the next 30 years have already been preserved.

Statistically, tomatoes has the highest priorities with domestic demand of 2.5 million tonnes of fresh product annually in Nigeria with national production of 1.8 million tonnes. However, wastages of over 760.320 tonnes and import bill of N20 billion make up for the short fall in local production.
Nigeria records very high import of products, which it can conveniently produce locally. The country’s exports are frequently rejected internationally as they fail to meet international standards required for export.

Though, Nigeria pays heavily to import its gains. It earns very little from the export of its produce as so much losses are recorded after harvest. These rejections are said to be caused by a number of factors including poor storage facilities, lack of processing facilities, poor or non-existing markets, transportation challenges and even lack of knowledge or capacity in food preservation, poor and inadequate power supply.
Nigeria is one of the countries where fruits and vegetables grow in and out of season, but  processing and preservation challenges often lead to huge post-harvest losses. Post-harvest losses are caused by factors like fruit pest diseases, poor preservation of harvested produces, poor transportation of harvested produces due to bad roads, lack of storage facilities such as cold rooms, silos and properly ventilated warehouses.

It is high time, Nigeria considered how it can bring in global agencies such as UKAID, World Bank, DFID to intervene and improve facilities in the area of food handling and preservation processes, especially in big markets, including Mile 12, Mushin, Idi-oro, Oyingbo and others across the country.

DFID, UK Aid to the rescue

Daily Sun visited most of these markets to ask both the sellers and buyers the area of possible investments and needs. Market leaders and traders however, disclosed that any investments from global agencies would be welcome.

Only recently, the United Kingdom showed interest to invest in the Lagos Mile 12 market, to raise it to international standards as part of Department for International Development (DFID) projects in Nigeria. According to the Permanent Secretary of the United Kingdom for DFID, James Wharton, the investment was in line with its continued support to Nigeria by the foreign government. He added that the market offered lots of investment potential.
He hinted that a lot more work needed to be done in the market to ensure it delivered what the people expect from it. Wharton said that the UK government would play significant role to support the market men and women to add value to the produce.

Some-farmers-manually-weeding-a-rice-farmHowever, he identified lack of infrastructural development including flooring of the market as major areas of urgent attention, as the quality of its packaging was yet to meet international standard.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Mile 12 Market Management Committee and Chairman Perishable Food Stuff Market Association, Haruna Muhammed, said the investment opportunity by the UK would bring a lot of relief to the market, lamenting that the facility had never benefited from government intervention since its inception.
Muhammed admitted: “there are investment need in the market in over 40 years of its existence there had never been any government assistance. We need assistance from both the government and the World Bank. The little improvement you see in the market is the efforts of the present management of the market.”
A pepper seller, Abiodun Alade, said that farmers, traders and consumers have problems with storage of farm products in Mile12 market. A lot of products coming in to the market, especially perishables, get wasted and the farmers get no value for their efforts with traders as well recording huge losses.”
She: “if there any technology that can help us to prevent our products from getting spoilt, we would be happy to welcome it. If you buy pepper or tomato today and if you don’t sell it under three days, it would get deteriorated. It means we are running at a loss and sometimes, we get these things on credit. We also want the World Bank to give us loans to trade because it has not been easy especially in the era of change. Government should come and help us.”
The Baba Oja General, Mushin Local Government, Alhaji Bolaji Awoyemi, said that there is need to invest in food preservation technology in Nigerian markets, saying the way some of the foods people consume are handled and packaged calls for concern.
He added: “If you see the way butchers handle meat in the market, sometimes you might not want to eat it. When I went to Saudi, I saw onion and pepper that was well preserved and when they brought them out, it was as if they just brought them from the farm afresh. And they said the onion and the pepper were produced  about two months ago from the farm. In Mushin market, you cannot bring pepper without selling it between two or three days, it will start deteriorating and same with tomatoes.
“If you the see the way they package meat in Mecca, you would appreciate it. You can’t see someone cutting meat in the market or hawking it on the street. The meat is being packaged inside cartons and well preserved. When you go to the market and buy the meat, you get home, all you need to do, put it inside water because it is already frozen.
Some people cannot finish selling a cow in one day while some can. The remaining ones left unsold need to be preserved but it is unfortunate that we don’t have the technology that can do that in Nigeria.”
Most of the traders who deal in food stuffs and perishable items in Mushin and Idi-oro markets, said that food preservation would enhance food security and people would not be hungry because there would be enough food once it is preserved technolohi.
Mr. Ogunleye Sunday, the Secretary of Idi-Oro Market, said the market would welcome anybody coming to invest in food preservation.
He added: “You see in America, foods that they are going to eat in the next 30 years is available apart from the one they are still doing now. If there is good infrastructure, we will welcome it; who doesn’t want to stay in a very good environment especially for health reasons.”