The 33rd Annual Conference and General Meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) was held in the Adamawa state capital, Yola from the 12th -16th October 2009. Food Scientists and Technologists from the food industry, the academia, government ministries, organizations and agencies, international organizations as well as prominent personalities including the Executive Governor of Adamawa State, Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (Rtd.) deliberated on a wide number of issues under the theme: Food Processing in the Semi- arid Regions: Challenges and Opportunities and made the following observations and recommendations.
- The semi arid regions of Nigeria cover about 35 million ha and encompass Borno, Yobe , Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa, Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kastina, and Kaduna states.
- Important staple food products from the region are millet, sorghum, cowpea, groundnut, fruits and vegetables, cotton, gum Arabic and livestock.
- About 90% of the land would require irrigation for full productive capacity in vegetables, rice and wheat.
- The area is characterized by desertification and low rainfall leading to low productivity in cereals and livestock.
- The region has a low level of industrialization, a high level of poverty, malnutrition and unemployment.
- A wide variety of traditional foods consumed in the region presently lack value additions that can attract wealth and positively affect the economic status of the people.
- There is a low level of SMEs engaged in food processing because of poor infrastructure, inadequate capital, obsolete technology, inadequate linkages between universities, polytechnics research institutes, and local farmers.
- Absence of an effective marketing system for price stability of value added products.
- Inability to access funds due to illiteracy and ignorance as well as unfriendly banking requirements.
- Low agricultural production coupled with high post harvest losses are challenges to food security in the region and Nigeria.
- The model for development of small and medium scale food production and processing enterprises in Adamawa State is suitable for a developing economy like Nigeria.
- The conference noted the importance of SMEs in food processing as engines for economic growth in alleviating poverty and ensuring food security and therefore recommends the mobilization of resources and all stakeholders towards the establishment of SMEs particularly in the rural areas.
- Governments at all levels are urged to provide technical assistance, concessional finance and subsidy for upgrading cottage / household establishments to SMEs.
- Provision and improvements in critical infrastructure (power, water, roads, etc.) to promote and sustain the establishment and expansion of SMEs in rural communities.
- Government funding for food processing research for development efforts should be increased with emphasis on community based SMEs.
- Government is enjoined to create and sustain marketing opportunities for ensuring price stability for new value added products.
- There is a need for a more holistic and comprehensive approach to encourage entrepreneurship and innovative presentation of indigenous food products that can enhance income and generate employment.
- Immediate action should be taken to establish clusters of integrated food processing units to take full advantage of technical assistance, extension services, water treatment facilities, water supply etc.
- Transparent, realistic and practical measures are required to ensure easy access by genuine food processors to intervention funds and bank credits.
- The Adamawa example for development of SMEs should serve as a model for other states in Nigeria.
- NIFST, government and other stakeholders must partner to foster the development of enterprises that will enhance value addition to indigenous food products.
Egbewole O.A …………………………………….. Adesegha Olubukola
National Secretary ……………………………………..National Publicity Secretary