The Nigerian House of Representatives, has assured it is committed to ensuring effective regulation and enforcement of high professional standards within the food processing and agricultural sectors the economy.
The Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Emeka Ihedioha stated this yesterday at the 37th annual international conference and annual general meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, NIFST in Abuja.
Ihedioha who said that Nigeria had the potentials to feed its citizens and the rest of Africa, stressed the importance of high sustainable and quality food standards,adding that any nation that fails to feed its citizens is at danger of social vices.
“A nation that cannot feed its populace is vulnerable to social crisis,insecurity and external manipulations. This is why the National Assembly is firmly in support of the efforts to move the country away from a mono-product economy and accord food and agricultural sector a renewed attention in the scheme of things”, he said.
According to him, part of the efforts of the National Assembly to encourage the industry was demonstrated in the enactment of the law that gave the existence of the NIFST a legal backing.
The Deputy Speaker, who is a fellow of the institute, also explained that National Assembly have continued to review existing legislations within the food and agricultural sector with a view to strengthen them and making the sector “attractive and viable.” Such legislation according to him includes National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC Act, among others.
He also pointed out that NIFST as a vital segment of the food and agricultural sector, “must” take adequate advantage of the transformation to establish their relevance in the economy.
In his speech, the minister of Health Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu highlighted the consequences of malnutrition in the economy, which he said has direct bearing on losses in productivity and increase in health care costs.
“Productive losses to individuals are estimated at more than 10 percent of lifetime earnings, and Gross Domestic Product, GDP lost to malnutrition runs as high as 2 to 3 percent.
“Our national policy for food and nutrition is being revised at the moment to align it with global trends. In furtherance of this, we have gone ahead to undertake the costing of what it would take to scale up nutrition intervention in Nigeria”, said the Minister.
Earlier in his welcome address, the NIFST President Professor Lateef Sanni said the federal government’s inability to effectively control and eliminate food contaminants is creating an enormous economic loss to the country.
Prof. Sanni said the national potential for local and international food trade cannot be fully harnessed, if the existing poor food regulation is not addressed.
“Food safety is playing increasingly dominant role in governance globally in view of its impact on public health, agriculture, trade and investment, poverty, hunger and tourism”, he said.
According to the NIFEST boss, the enforcement of relevant existing food safety laws and regulations are not properly coordinated between various agencies of the government and between the three tiers of government and this is affecting the economy.
The cases of food borne illnesses keep increasing in the country because the government is lax on food regulation and monitoring, he said.
He however, pointed that Nigeria is expected to fulfill its obligation by ensuring the safety of its foods and food products to international consumers is guaranteed in line with agreed protocols of the UN conventions and declarations.