DIFFICULT TIMES CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FOOD SCIENTISTS AND TECHNOLOGISTS

Posted by Adaora Anozie

On July 18, 2016

DIFFICULT TIMES CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FOOD SCIENTISTS AND TECHNOLOGISTS. AN ADDRESS PRESENTED ON THE 30/06/2016 AT THE EBONYI STATE UNIVERSITY, FOOD SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STUDENTS FOOD WEEK.

PREAMBLE
We are in a very difficult times in our history as a nation. Our country is at its worth economic cross roads and only the tough will wither the storm. In the face of all these challenges and difficulties, there are several windows of opportunities that awaits seasoned graduates of Food Science and Technology. The jobs are no longer there, and jobs must be created by those who have the requisite training and exposure in the right discipline. The current quagmire in which we have found ourselves as a nation, gives us no other option than to put into practice what we have learnt over the years. All inventions are end products of challenges. The power to invent is drawn from existing pool of challenges which the inventor considers as a necessity, and these necessities become the mother of all inventions. This is a clarion call to you all to start now to think of tomorrow, on how you can make yourselves relevant by not only creating wealth for yourselves but for others. The popular axiom that “man must eat” is now a call to duty and wealth.The world renowned civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnrwas quoted as saying “that the true test of a man is not where he stands in the time of comfort and pleasure, but where he stands in the time of difficulties and challenges”.
You may have heard that at the time they had some economic challenges, the Malaysian government in the 60s, came to Nigeria and took its first palm fruit variety. Today they have turned their difficulties and challenges into myriads of opportunities and created trillions of jobs on palm fruits alone. Today well over 42 commercialized products have been produced from palm oil fruits and more ongoing research is being carried out to add to the existing products.
Existing opportunities in areas like:

1. SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZE FOOD PROCESSORS
With a vast population of over 170 million people we are faced with solving the problem of malnutrition, poverty and improving the national economy. Population trends are changing from predominantly rural to urban setting. With people living below one dollar a day, and so many others without adequate access to enough good quality and safe foods that would lead them to live a productive and healthy live. Therefore, the small and medium size food processors and producers are the key players and drivers that would sustain this migration. Marketing of fresh foods for instance requires efficient wholesale and retail facilities in order to avoid food losses which can range up to 50% when proper food handling practices are not put in place. To preserve foods or produce food products retail food processors must have well trained staff that understands good food handling practices to assure quality and safety of food and avoid losses.
Food production and processing techniques have been changing over time to ensure better and more abundant food supplies. High yielding techniques have help in improving the quantity and qualities of food products available. In food drying, storage, processing and marketing new techniques and equipment have increased efficiency and reduce food losses. Other important sectors like tourism must also rely on adequate supplies of good quality and safe foods to assure success and help in foreign exchange earnings. In all these areas new jobs have been created for thousands of people who have the competence to drive the system. Thus the food and agriculture is by far the largest employer of people.

2. POST HARVEST TECHNOLOGY
Post harvest techniques refers to the stabilization of unprocessed or minimally processed foods from the time of harvest until final preparation for human consumption- these include selection, preservation, packaging and processing. The development of appropriate technologies would help to improve the handling and quality of food crops and significantly improve nutrition. Improvement in handling perishable foods, including harvesting methods, Pre-cooling methods, storage techniques, packing and packaging, quarantine system, transport system, modified controlled atmosphere storage are areas of opportunities still begging for answers to solve lots of post-harvest losses that still occurs in virtually all our crops.

3. TRADITIONAL FOOD PROCESSING
The capacity to preserve food is directly related to the technological development of the people. The slow progress in upgrading our traditional food processing and preservation techniques contributes to food and nutrition insecurity. Production and use of simple low cost traditional food processing techniques and equipment are the bed rock of small scale size food processing enterprise that are crucial to rural development. They are vital to reducing post-harvest food losses and increasing food availability. Only those of you that have allowed themselves to be trained can venture into these areas and make progress faster. Your training was designed to make you go through rigorous scientific curriculum that prepares you well for the challenges of the 21st century.
Thank you and remain blessed
Alaka I.C. PhD