By Olasunkanmi Onifade
The Nigerian Institute of Food, Science and Technology (NIFST), on Tuesday called on relevant stakeholders to be more committed to food security.
The National President of NIFST, Prof. Maduebibisi Iwe, made the call during the 7th Regional Food Summit (REFoST) and NIFST Day celebration in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Repositioning the Nigerian Food System for wealth and Job Creation in a post COVID 19 era’.
The President said: “we have a lot to do in this crucial field of managing the products of the field, from the farm gate to the table.
“Food Scientists must become more visible, because at the end of the day what matters most is what various categories of people across the world consume for good health and life maintenance.
“We should henceforth take our profession very seriously, engage with the food industry, government, legislators, and even the farmers to ensure that we close the gaps and serve humanity as expected,’’ Iwe said.
He said food productivity could also be affected in the future, especially if the Coronavirus was not contained and the lockdown measures continued.
Iwe said a number of overlapping and reinforcing dynamics had emerged and were unleashed by the pandemic on food systems and food security and nutrition, including disruptions to food supply chains, loss of income and livelihoods.
He said others included a widening of inequality, disruptions to social protection programmes, altered food environments, and uneven food prices in localised contexts.
“Moreover, given the high degree of uncertainty around the virus and its evolution, there may be future threats to food security and nutrition.
“This will include the potential for lower food productivity and production, depending on the severity and duration of the pandemic and measures to contain it.
“The pandemic is sure to have initial, medium, and potential longer-term impacts on the consuming population. The pandemic has adverse effects on the food supply chain.
“There have been major disruptions to food supply chains in the wake of the lockdown measures which have affected the availability, pricing, and quality of food,’’ he said.
He also said that the closure of restaurants and other food service facilities led to a sharp decline in demand for certain perishable foods.
“The foods include dairy products, potatoes and fresh fruits, as well as specialty goods such as chocolate and some high value cuts of meat.
Iwe said farmers without adequate storage facilities, including cold storage, were confronted with food that they could not sell.
He said that the movement of food through the channels of international trade was especially affected by the lockdown measures.
“As borders closed and demands for certain food items dropped, food producers reliant on selling their crops via distant export markets were highly vulnerable.
“The most particularly affected were those producers who focused on perishable food and agricultural products such as fresh fruits and vegetables or specialty crops such as cocoa.
“In the early months of the outbreak of COVID-19, some food exporting countries also imposed export restrictions on key staple food items, like rice and wheat.
“This led to some disruptions in the global movement of these staples as well as higher prices of these crops relative to others.
Mr Isaac Adeyemi, the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, who gave the keynote address, said food system was a complex web of activities involving the production, transportation and consumption.
He added that issues concerning the food system involved the governance and economics of food production.
He, however, called for effective and efficient implementation of each step of the food system saying that there should be planning and internal networking for self-sufficiency with minimal dependency on food importation, food aid and support.
Earlier, Mr Funsho Tehinse, the Managing Consultant of Funta Services Nigeria Limited, who had training sessions with food operators, advised them to be knowledgeable about how to handle strong cleaning chemicals and proper hygiene.
The FCT chapter Chairman of the Institute, Mrs Nkechi Ezeh, said the food Summit was organised annually for the celebration of the birth of the institute.
She said that it was aimed at bringing great minds together to discuss current issues affecting food safety, food security and the economy at large.
“The pandemic impacted on the world economy and it is still impacting. Food and food systems are not spared.
“The virus is not transmitted through food.
“Rather, it created a huge opportunity for food professionals along the food value chain including food storage, preservation, distribution, processing, presentation, packaging, and consumption through the deployment of Science and Technology.
“This informed the theme for this 2021 Food Summit, and it is intended to educate participants on how to reposition food systems so as to create wealth and job,” she said.
NAN also reports that NIFST is a non-profit professional association, incorporated under the Company and Allied Matters Act, representing over 10,000 food professionals from the academia, industry, government and research institutions in Nigeria. (NAN)