• Friday, March 01, 2024
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Local food machine production for economic growth

Local food machine production for economic growth

Benefits

The quest for self-reliance in food production, processing, preservation and packaging can be fully realized when the issue of local fabrication of food machines and equipment is brought to the front burner by relevant policy makers as well as stakeholders and adopted holistically. Nigeria cannot be talking about sustainable revolution in the agric sector if we continue to import sundry food machines, most of which could be produced locally if the enabling environment is provided.

The advantages are enormous. The technological ingenuity of our local scientists, mechanical engineers, systems designers, food technologists, agric economists and even welders would be put to good use. Thousands of jobs would be created. It would enthrone and sustain the culture of technological acquisition instead of distant dream of the so called technology transfer. No country worth its salt would willy-nilly transfer its money-spinning technological knowhow to another, least of all Nigeria which has refused to use what it has(abundant natural and human resources) to get what it wants(economic stability).

Read also: FG to invest in irrigation system to boost food production

Similarly, we would save scarce foreign exchange and reduce capital flight. Indeed, experts are agreed that if the near comatose Ajaokuta Steel Company which kicked off on July 13,1979 with a global contract agreement signed between the Federal Government and Messrs Tyajzh –Prome- Export(TPE) of the defunct USSR, had been seen through to its logical conclusion, Nigeria’s manufacturing industries would have reached a high level of capacity utilization. By now we would have been making more money by processing our cocoa beans, coffee, cashew nuts, cassava chips and sesame seeds before exporting them. This would strengthen the value chain.

Unfortunately, we still import most of the machines required for virtually all the processes that would enhance food security. Apart from hoes and cutlasses, most machines needed for modern agricultural practices, including tilling of farmland, weeding, sowing, irrigation, crop spraying and harvesting are imported to the detriment of our national economy. For years, the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) had asked the Federal Government for the lowering of tariffs for this equipment without focusing on the gains inherent in local production. Yet, the rolling mills, thermal power plant and mechanical repair shops of the Ajaokuta Steel Company would have taken good care of production of several of these.

The missing link

On paper, we had policies in this direction. But lack of adequate funding and lack of synergy between the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and that of Science and Technology, as well as Trade and Investment has led us to a situation whereby we depend on foreign technology to solve our immediate challenges. For instance, PRODA in Enugu meant as an intellectual incubator for our technological leap was frustrated due to lack of funds and sustained political will. As part of its mandate on Engineering Services, the Engineering Division of FIIRO was to meet the needs of research and development work in addition to industries and general public. But most of its noteworthy inventions and innovations are stalled due to inadequate fund injection.

If it had been fully funded as it happens in China, India, the United Kingdom and United States, the various designs and fabrication of Machinery and Equipment(M and E) needed to demonstrate the technical feasibility of completed Research and Development(R and D) would have been earning reasonable revenue. How many Nigerians know that it is also involved in cutting of various types of gears, machining of spare parts, production of cast components of iron and aluminum materials up to 200 kg weight?Glass blowing, refurbishing of spark plugs, electroplating of metals, metal forming, cropping, aluminum welding, heat treatment and foundry casting all fall within the ambit of its core functions.

Amongst the machines locally fabricated are cabinet tray dryer, extruder, cassava mash mixer, solar dryer and cassava chipping machine. Others are oil filter press, hydraulic press for cassava processing, essential oils distillation plant and groundnut Sheller. Therefore, if the Ajaokuta Steel Company was in full operation the afore-stated would have been mass produced to fast track food processes that are carried out manually at the rural areas.

Read also: Nigeria promising food business can do with more essential ingredients

Types

With the benefit of local technology we now have mechanized cassava flour production, production of fufu, dry milling of grains and legumes, fruit juice extraction, cassava-wheat flour composite flour bread making and instant pounded yam production. Others are soy-garri production, soy-ogi, soy-dawadawa, starch production, edible mushroom production and bottling and preservation of palm wine.

To maximize the huge potentials in this largely untapped sector of the food industry a lot still has to be done from both the public and private sectors.

Master plan

The Federal Government should embark on assessing the areas of inventions and innovations from various departments of food science and technology, agriculture, agric engineering and related arms of engineering across the country and their financial implications for mass production. What types of food machines have been invented and fabricated? Who invented or innovated them-individuals, universities or research institutes? Where are they located? What are their uses? Where, if possible can we obtain local raw materials for their production?

In essence, we need to have far-reaching plans of an industrial revolution far beyond Vision 20-2020.We have to itemize the food machines we are currently importing but which we have the capacity for local production. These have to be categorized into the following:

1. Machines for food production.

2. Machines for local food processing.

3. Machines for food preservation.

4. Machines for food packaging.

Human Capacity Development

Without doubt we cannot talk of food security and job creation without the human element. Instead of allowing the best of our brains to relocate to foreign lands, thereby denying our dear country the economic growth and development from their creativity, the enabling environment must be provided for the products of their intellectual energy to see the light of day.

We should identify local food machine fabricators who need bank loans to facilitate the commercialization of their products .Where necessary, industrial villages could be created across the six geo-political zones, equipped with stable electric power, access to Bank of Industry loans, access to foreign markets and security for their ideas to thrive.

There should also be a workable synergy between food research institutes. The salutary aim is to see the areas where there are similarities in their inventions and innovations and what assistance the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology as well as Ministry of Agriculture could provide.

Read also: BUA Foods, Dangote Sugar lead consumer firms in shareholders’ funds

Truth is, the era of over dependence on foreign technology at the detriment of ours has come and gone. Policy makers would do us a world of good by cashing in on available opportunities by re-organizing our internal processes for increased revenue drive. The food industry is no doubt the easiest means of job creation and we have the human capacity, abundant talents, natural resources and even the money required to galvanize this sleeping giant from its long slumber.