Federal Government has been urged to review some of its policies and requirements to accommodate smallholder farmers willing to venture into agro processing, in order to maximise the economic growth potential in the agro value chain.
This call was made by the founder and President of the Women in Agricultural Advancement & Sustainability Africa (WAASA), Chi Tola, who noted that though standards must be high, fees and procedures must be accommodating to support local food processors.
“This call has become imperative now as many smallholder farmers who are willing to venture into agro processing are having difficulty getting regulatory permits. A smallholder farmer who has decided to go into okra farming and processing, seeking to have a National Agency For Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) permit to process and package okra for distribution and sale in Nigeria should not be made to pay so much with extensive visits.
“Most of the sales outlets in Nigeria now are becoming aware of the need for products sold at their shops, 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 asked.
While expressing worry over bottlenecks in obtaining necessary permits and endorsement by small processors, she called on the Federal Government not to only monitor the activities of these regulatory bodies, but also review the regulatory policies to make accessible to small processors.
Tola said: “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 programmes are ongoing in the areas of packaging, processing organically, and preservation, among others, after these actions are required.”
The WAASA President noted: “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. 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.”