Engage diaspora food technocrats to grow economy, scientist advises FG

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By Itohan Abara-Laserian

Dr Tony Bello, a food scientist, has urged the Federal Government to tap into the expertise of food technocrats among Nigerian diaspora to enhance the growth of the country’s consumer packaged food sub-sector.

Bello, who is the Chairman of Shine Bridge Global, a U.S.-based food technology company, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Lagos.

Bello said the government should reverse the brain drain phenomenon by actively involving skilled diaspora professionals in the food industry.

“Engagement of the diaspora community and private sector, not the politically inclined diaspora, but professionals with proven track records in their respective fields, especially in the food industry, will set the tone for this administration.

“During my 30 years of working for companies like PepsiCo Frito Lay, the Kellogg Company, the Heinz Frozen Foods, I came across a number of smarter Nigerians than myself, who have done great things in the food industry.

 

“It is high time we bring these people back. Let us reverse the brain drain to become the brain game. If this administration can focus on that, I tell you, we will be up to something,” he noted.

Bello recommended that the government should prioritise research and development innovation, utilising established food science and technologies to transform staple foods into fast-moving consumer products.

The expert said this approach, would help provide ample energy, nutrition, and micronutrients necessary for health and wellness.

According to him, Nigeria has the potential to capitalise on its processed cassava market to generate approximately 10 billion dollars in revenue if properly exploited.

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He said: “We are talking about an opportunity to grow the African processed cassava market in the tune of 10 billion dollars in revenue. This is the projection for gluten free consumer packaged goods.

 

“Today, that market is roughly six billion dollars and is expected to grow at 9.5 per cent or 10 per cent compounded annual growth rate.

“Well, the fiscal and monetary policy has to enable private sector engagements. Then, we would grow the processed cassava sector in Nigeria in the form of, let us say, with High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF).

 

“HQCF, in bakery applications for export, is a 10-billion dollar opportunity. For us at Shine Bridge Global, we have kick started this industrialisation in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole,” Bello said.

 

Bello also mentioned his intention to secure 3,000 metric tonnes of HQCF through collaboration with a Madagascan company interested in investing in Nigeria’s cassava sub-sector for export purposes.

Citing the success of the U.S. potato chips market, Bello said Nigeria has the capability to transform cassava flour into instant tapioca flakes.

 

“The market is waiting on the food manufacturing industry, they are waiting and we have been able to demonstrate the concept of transforming cassava flour into instant tapioca flakes.

 

“Tapioca flakes opens up the opportunity to apply our humble cassava flour in a diversity of consumer packaged foods, such as baby foods earlier indicated, baked goods and bakery mixes.

 

“This is not to mention our ‘fufu’ mixes, I tell you the best fufu you you will ever eat is what we have done with tapioca flour. I can not wait for it to hit the Nigerian markets,” he said.

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The food scientist identified infrastructure, financing, youth engagement, and the availability of raw materials as key challenges to agricultural growth in Nigeria.

Bello, therefore, called on the federal government to revitalise and rejuvenate the commercial agriculture sector.

He emphasised the importance of a mindset shift, urging policymakers to view agriculture as a viable business opportunity rather than merely a means to alleviate poverty. (NAN)

Edited by Olawunmi Ashafa

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