• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Rice fortification: Stakeholders want adoption of edible oil strategy

Rice fortification: Stakeholders want adoption of edible oil strategy

As TechnoServe, a non-profit organisation, is set to launch its Technical Assistance Acceleration Programme (TAAP), aimed at increasing the diversity of fortified foods available in Nigeria, experts in the food and agricultural sector have called for the adoption of an inclusive strategy, that recognizes the market structure of the industry.

The TAAP initiative which is vital in ensuring that Nigerians have access to nutrition at a time surging food prices are affecting consumption patterns, will focus on the selected food vehicles under the previous Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) project and also include rice in its fortification drive.

The experts who spoke at a mobilization 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.

“We need to consider the market structure and look at what worked in the dibble oil sector in drafting the policy document for rice fortification,” said Ayodele Tella, country project manager, TAAP.

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.

Speaking about the TAAP, Dominic Schofield, global programme director, TAA, TechnoServe noted that despite the progress made over the last two decades, Nigeria is face 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.

He said it is a global program that would improve the leadership represented in Nigeria for food fortification that will scale the fortification of micronutrients.

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He noted that TAAP will build on the Micro Fortification Index – a step in fortification sustainability.

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.

He noted that there is a lack of consumer demand for fortified foods in the country, and fuelling it is crucial in driving fortification.

He added that TAAP will also drive micronutrient fortification in rice fortification, saying there is a lot to do across the rice value chain.

“We need to meet the expectation around quality, address the needs in opportunities and how small processors that are fragmented will be captured in fortification,” he said.

Adesuwa Akinboro, country director, TechnoServe, 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.

“I always was fascinated by the work of TechnoServe, especially in the work of food fortification. I am impressed by the work that the SAFFP project accomplished including the innovative platform called MFI, which is the first ever of its kind platform that ensures that food companies can report and track their levels of food fortification.”