2020 Nigeria Food Processing & Nutrition Leadership Forum
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE 2020 NIGERIA FOOD PROCESSING AND NUTRITION LEADERSHIP FORUM ON THE 3RD OF DECEMBER 2020.
The conveners of this forum – the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and TechnoServe – deserve all our commendation for providing the platform for this hugely important conversation on sustaining fortification compliance levels. Or more simply how to ensure that every Nigerian family benefits from more micronutrients in their diet.
As it is for all sectors of our economy, the Nigerian food processing industry has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a direct impact on all aspects of the food business ranging from financing, staff welfare, to supply chain disruptions. Operators in the sector have had to make difficult decisions regarding shutting down or communal downsizing operations or asking office-based staff to work from home, or putting costly extra practices and procedures in place to protect plant employees from exposure.
The role that the food industry has played during this challenging period and the resiliency it has demonstrated are highly commendable. The commitment of the leadership of these industries to national development by supporting the food system in Nigeria is quite simply remarkable.
The food systems within the processing sector are fitted for improved nutrition. I must also commend the efforts of the partners in the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) project, who have in the past three years, focused on increasing consumer access to adequately fortified foods.
We have an enormous opportunity here to reinforce the goal of sustainable food fortification in Nigeria. I am pleased to see that the average compliance rates to national fortification standards had increased from 50% in 2018 to 75% in 2019 and hit the 2020 target of 90%.
I believe this platform will continue to serve as an opportunity to review progress on an annual basis, and share lessons learned against fortification standards within their respective sectors.
The Nigerian government is keen on driving collaborative efforts in enhancing national monitoring and enforcement of fortification quality standards. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) have done innovative work in this regard through the Joint Regulatory Framework. Industry Compliance with food fortification standards especially in wheat flour, salt and sugar has also improved. We, however, need to reach full compliance to be able to shape national public health outcomes to the extent that we desire.
The Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI) is an interesting innovation that will motivate industries to self-regulate in meeting government standards for food fortification. The use of this tool should be adopted by all companies involved in fortification and I believe it should be made available to stakeholders and shareholders alike. We should be able to hold them accountable as they strive to meet industry benchmarks, including compliance with Nigerian Fortification Standards. Government regulatory agencies will definitely find the tool useful in support of industry regulation efforts and consumer expectations.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Ministry of Health each play a critical role and have been at the forefront of food fortification in Nigeria. Through ongoing engagements with the Director Generals (DGs) and core group representatives from NAFDAC, SON, and FCCPC, the collaboration towards enhancing national monitoring and enforcement of fortification quality standards has been strengthened.
The challenges faced by the industries of the four targeted food vehicles of edible oil, salt, sugar, and wheat flour are not insurmountable. I hope that the engagements with the relevant government agencies will resolve these issues easily.
Let me conclude by once again, commending Bill and Aliko for their efforts in nutrition and other development priorities in Nigeria, and indeed, for being friends of the Government of Nigeria and TechnoServe which is successfully implementing the project on Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and other partners.
The 2021 UN Summit on Food Systems is around the corner and we are all stakeholders in that process and so I call on everyone to join me as we collectively begin to prepare our participation at the 2021 summit.
Thank you so much.