Nigerian food processing companies make remarkable progress in availing fortified staple foods to consumers

NIGERIA – Nigeria’s food processing companies have made a significant progress in fortifying staple foods with micronutrients that are essential to achieving better health and nutrition for all, reaching more than 90 percent of the Nigerian population in the last 3 years.

This was revealed by Technoserve, at the 3rd yearly Nigeria Food Processing and Leadership Forum, which was chaired by Alhaji Aliko Dangote.

According to data presented by the international non-governmental organization, from 2017 to 2020, the population reached with wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid increased from 54 per cent to 92 per cent.

In addition, the population reached with sugar fortified with Vitamin A increased from 31 per cent to 96 per cent; and salt iodization levels were maintained at 95 percent, reports The Guardian Nigeria.

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From the statistic, the private sector was identified as the engine to spearhead increased access of nutritious food by all.

“By creating a common set of compliance standards, while also giving companies the tools they need to effectively fortify their foods, we are creating a sustainable path to delivering Nigerians food that will help them live healthier, more productive lives. Better nutrition for our consumers means better health and economic development for our nation,” Dangote stated.

The forum noted that edible oil fortified with Vitamin A also made progress, but to a lesser degree, with the population reached with fortified cooking oil increasing from 25 percent to 32 percent.

One reason for the slower progress is that the edible oil industry is less centralized than other staple foods, requiring coordination across more stakeholders.

To this end, TechnoServe which implements the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will provide further technical assistance to oil millers who want to participate in the multi-stakeholder effort.

In addition, Techno Serve will support relevant government agencies to improve its efforts on regular testing of imported edible oil at the ports of entry.

“The leaders in this meeting have already shown what’s possible for wheat flour, salt, and sugar. I hope that by the next time we meet, cooking oil will be added to the list,” said Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates.

To strengthen industry-wide compliance, TechnoServe has been working with private sector partners to launch Nigeria’s first-ever Micronutrient Fortification Index (MFI).

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“By creating a common set of compliance standards, while also giving companies the tools they need to effectively fortify their foods, we are creating a sustainable path to delivering Nigerians food that will help them live healthier, more productive lives.”

Alhaji Aliko Dangote

The MFI helps companies assess compliance with Nigerian Fortification Standards. Companies’ overall scores are presented in a dashboard that is updated annually to show progress and gaps, contributing to an industry-wide platform that emphasizes quality standards.

“Given the impacts of Covid-19 on our economy, I am particularly impressed with the leadership we have seen from our food companies.

“Our industry leaders have shown that even during an international public health crisis and an economic crisis, we can still deliver good nutrition for all citizens, including our poorest, through production and distribution of widely consumed fortified staple foods,” said Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo.

Despite the remarkable progress made, significant work remains to achieve project goals and maximize public health impact, of particular emphasis is working to sustain progress and to ensure that fortified cooking oil achieves similar success.

One out of three Nigerian children under five are stunted—their bodies and brains deprived of the key nutrients they need to fully develop to reach their full potential.

Over the long-term, stunting results in a 10 to 17 per cent loss of wages. When multiplied across the nation, it’s estimated that Nigeria loses more than US$1.5billion in GDP yearly as a result of diminished productivity and increased healthcare costs.

“If Nigeria is really serious about creating jobs, expanding its markets and growing its economy, nutrition and food systems should be put in the centre of the conversation,” said, West Africa Regional Director, TechnoServe, Larry Umunna said.

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