Efforts to develop the domestic and international markets for Nigeria’s horticulture produce have begun, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development has disclosed.
Akinwumi disclosed this at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said that Nigeria, with its arable land, should be competing with Kenya, a leading exporter of horticultural produce.
“We are implementing right now the early phases of our plan on horticulture programme for Nigeria. A group has being set up called the FGEAN, which is the Fresh-produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria. It is a private-sector group that is working on developing export market for horticulture produce from Nigeria and also to produce for the domestic markets as well at quality that the supermarkets and the consumers will want.
“Now, let me give you an example not just bananas, let’s take the case of tomatoes. You go in Karawa valley in Kano; Karawa valley in Kano is the largest production area for tomato in the country. Over 45 per cent of that tomato rots away everyday because there is no processing plant to make that into tomato paste. Now we are the largest importer of tomato paste from China and Italy. But we are changing that through our work.’’
The minister told NAN that the ministry was working with the Dangote and Transcorp groups to develop the horticulture sub-sector.
According to him, Dangote Group is building a 2,500-tonne capacity tomato processing plant in Kano State, which will be commissioned in January 2013.
He recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan had also commissioned an orange processing plant in Benue.
Meanwhile, he appealed to African farmers to embrace improved technologies and improved varieties of food in order to fight malnutrition.
The minister stressed that lack of access to micro-nutrients was a major challenge for many children on the African continent.
He said, however, that the ministry was collaborating with the Ministry of Health to fight malnutrition.
Adesina said that the Ministry of Health had introduced a community-based project called “Save a Million Lives’’ to feed malnourished people in the rural areas. Within agriculture, we are doing the following: first is working on bio-fortification. Bio-fortification allows you to put in the required nutrients into crops and we’ve been successful.
Last year, we released three high-yielding varieties of what you call `Pro-Vitamin A cassava’ for the first time in Africa, we were the first to do that from our National Food Crop Research Institute in Umudike.’’
“Secondly we have released quality protein maize. Quality protein maize also has a lot of vitamins in it. As we speak, 100,000 hectares of that is under cultivation in Nigeria and it is very good for making “akamu’’ which is local pap for children.
And third is, we are working on something called the orange-flesh sweet potato. The orange-flesh sweet potato has vitamins in it and we are working right now to multiply that and be able to reach one million farmers by 2015.
Adesina said that the ministry was encouraging the bio-fortification of flour and vegetable oil by adding vitamins, which, he said would help prevent malnutrition and stave diseases. (NAN)