Food processors bemoan high cost of farm produce

Following the rising cost of basic food items, some food processors have complained that the high cost of agricultural produce has been a major challenge facing the food processing sub-sector.
In separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the processors highlighted low capacity of farmers to meet demands for produce and destruction of farmlands by terrorists in the north-eastern part of the country as the major factors behind the high food prices.
Mrs Modupe Okusanya, the Managing Director of Bloopamed Nigeria Ltd, a cassava-processing company, said that the prices of cassava, guinea-corn, maize and other staple crops had doubled in the last six months.
“While we kept thinking it was the rise in the dollar-to-naira exchange rate could have caused this, we realised that it was because the farmers were not able to meet up with the current food demands of the Nigerian populace.
“Most farmers around us still undertake subsistence farming; if you ask for five bags of grains, they supply; but when you ask for 10 to 20 bags for bulk production, the farmers are not able to supply.
“At the end of the day, for the little they are able to get, the prices are increased.
“We are being forced to jack up the prices of our `paps’, flours and `garri’, which, in turn, is not so favourable to the final consumers. It is sad that our local products are getting more expensive every day,’’ Okusanya said.
Also speaking, Mrs Ijeoma Ndukwe, Chief Executive Officer, Bubez Foods, another food processing firm, urged the government to develop international partnerships for technology transfers in the area of food processing.
She stressed that the high cost of importing quality food processing machines had been a huge challenge to most manufacturers.
Ndukwe said that investments in research and development initiatives in the field of agricultural technologies would yield massive returns, while boosting the development for the country’s agricultural sector.
She said that not all food processors were able to afford appropriate technologies which could reposition Nigerian foods as a global brand.
Mr Duro Kuteyi, Chief Executive Officer, Spectra Foods, warned of looming food scarcity in the country.
He said that a food crisis could occur if the government and the people failed to take urgent measures to tackle the problems brought about by low farm yields and farmers’ losses due to terrorist attacks.
Kuteyi said that the prices of food items processed from cocoa, cassava and maize might continue to spiral if farmers were not adequately supported.
“We are not even able to meet up with local demands for our foods; how then are we going to export?” he asked.
Kuteyi urged the government to initiate measures that would boost capacity utilisation in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, describing both sectors as the major drivers of a diversified economy.

He lauded the Federal Government for increasing import duties on certain items, adding, however, that the implementation of such policies should be backed by better infrastructure as well as incentives for local manufacturers and farmers.  


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