Experts and stakeholders in food and agricultural sector have reiterated the need to draft policy document for rice Fortification in Nigeria, adding that, this would drive the adoption of inclusive strategy to recognise the market structure of the industry.
This is even as TechnoServe, a non-profit organisation, is set to launch its Technical Assistance Acceleration Programme (TAAP), aimed at increasing the diversity of fortified foods availability in Nigeria.
The TAAP initiative, experts said, would ensure that Nigerians have access to nutrition at a time surging food prices are affecting consumption patterns adding that, the focus would include rice in its fortification drive under the previous Strengthening Africa Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF).
The experts, who spoke at a mobilisation workshop for TAAP, said the country’s rice industry is similar to its edible oil industry as the value chains in both industries are highly fragmented.
They urged the country to consider the market structure by looking at lessons in the edible oil sector fortification drive in the previous SAPFF project in drafting the policy document for rice fortification.
Speaking on the TAAP Launch, Country Project manager, Ayodele Tella, stated that, “we need to consider the market structure and look at what worked in the oil sector in drafting the policy document for rice fortification.”
He affirmed that the SAPFF project ended in 2022 after five years of increasing processor compliance in fortification by understanding their challenges and helping close the gaps. In Nigeria, the selected food vehicles are; wheat flour, sugar, and edible oil.
Also speaking, Global Programme director, TAA, TechnoServe, Dominic Schofield, noted that, despite the progress made over the last two decades, Nigeria is faced with continuous challenges.
He stated that the Food and Agricultural Organisation reported that 90.4 million Nigerians would be food insecure this year, a figure, he noted, has been steadily rising since 2015 but now accelerating owing to worsening insecurity, the pandemic, and Russia –Ukraine war.
He stated that food fortification is needed today more than ever amid surging food prices.
Schofield said, TAAP is a follow-up of the SAPFF initiative that lasted for five years, adding that the program is a sense of refresh for Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and partners to advance food fortification.
He described TAAP as one of the five pillars of a new strategy of the foundation, focused on fortification and built on the opportunities created by the SAPFF project.
According to him, TAAP currently operates in eight countries – Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.
“The new approach towards our industry support was to re-look at fortification compliance and challenges. We found that lack of industry incentives and poor quality of premixes is a key priority for action,” he said.
Country director, TechnoServe, Adesuwa Akinboro, said, large-scale food fortification is important, especially, in a country with a population as large as Nigeria and with a high malnutrition rate.
“Evidence has shown that large-scale food fortification results in reductions in micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition,” she said.