The Federal Government says it will ensure a sustained partnership with the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to raise food safety issues among Nigerians.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said this at the 1st Nigeria Food Safety and Investment Forum organised by UNIDO in Lagos.
Ogbeh said the collaboration would lead to safe guarding the economic and public health of Nigerians with a view to achieving a healthy and viral nation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the forum is designed to enhance food safety and foster international business cooperation.
The theme of the Forum is: “Examining the Interconnection of Food, Safety, Public Health, Investment and Food Trade’’.
Ogbeh said: “The issues of all-encompassing food safety and public health can no longer be treated with levity in Nigeria.
“It has therefore, become necessary for us as a nation, to take this matter very seriously as regards the nation’s food security and global/international standards as the benchmark for our agricultural commodities to attract global competitiveness.
“The plain truth is that the boom era of huge oil revenues has come to an end, and the only way out is agriculture.
“This will involve mass cultivation, quality assurance, self sufficiency and export targets in rapidly diversifying our economy for inclusive growth and sustainable development.”
Similarly, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who was represented by Dr Gloria Elemo of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, identified issues of food safety regulations in the country.
“There is need to strengthen food safety in the country. However, lack of awareness for social importance of food safety and lack of coordination and synergy among the key players in the food safety system, pose as challenges.
“Others include inadequate infrastructure and resources, inadequate financial investments, weak food control systems, obsolete food regulation systems as well as inability to enforce compliance to international standards.
“Also, lack of data and information on incidences of food borne disease outbreaks, uncoordinated response to food borne epidemics and insufficient food supply chain are identified challenges,” he said.
The minister said that based on these, there were obvious needs to strengthen the food safety system at all levels to ensure that all Nigerians key in into utilising our local products and standard sets are complied with.
He also urged the public as well as the private sector to have vested interest in achieving food safety for the overall benefit of the citizens.
The Director, Trade and Investment, UNIDO, Bernado Calzadilla- Sarmiento, said that trade investment and promotion were key drivers for economic and inclusive growth.
Calzadilla-Sarmiento the director said that concerted efforts from the private, public sectors and the academia were required to ensure global food safety and economic growth.
He said that food safety was fundamental to public safety and required a gamut of collaboration from all sectors.
“We cannot achieve food safety without this collaboration,’’ the director said.
He noted that after the hosting of the international food safety conference in Vienna, stakeholders from the Nigerian food industry pushed for a replication in Nigeria.
He hoped that the food safety forum would become a yearly event.
He said that overcoming the critical issues surrounding food safety required a multi sectored approach.
NAN also reports that the two-day forum is packaged by the European Union and UNIDO in partnership with the Nigerian government.
It focuses on the promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrialisation by identifying, attracting and mobilising investments and appropriate technologies for small and medium enterprises.
The forum featured several development partners and foreign participants and exhibitors.