Owerri – The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) has said that 95 per cent of industrial raw materials used for production of fruit juices and allied products in Nigeria are imported.
Its Director General, Dr Hussaini Ibrahim, made the observation at the 2016 Capacity Building Workshop for Traders and Farmers in Imo State on Friday.
The DG, who was represented by Dr Sam Ebiriekwe, an assistant director, attributed the development to lack of improved varieties of fruits as well as inadequate and functional fruit concentrate plants in the country.
He said that the effect was that Nigerian products had remained uncompetitive in the world market, coupled with poor capacity utilisation, outright closures and relocation of many industries to neighbouring countries with more favourable economic environment.
“Other effects include job loss, poverty and attendant youth restiveness, conflicts and other social vices,’’ he said.
Ibrahim said that the workshop organised in collaboration with the Imo Polytechnic, Umuagwo was anchored on the collective desire to develop the industrial capacity of Nigeria through utilisation of local raw materials as inputs for domestic industries.
He described the workshop as timely and in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s drive for economic diversification in view of the dwindling price of crude oil in the international market.
“A formidable fruit juice concentrate production plant will significantly increase capacity utilisation and industrial growth that will contribute to the development of a sustainable national economy.
“The idea that will be canvassed here and lessons learnt will offer opportunities for participants to have their capacities built in the critical areas of pineapple, citrus juice and concentrate production,’’ he said.
Ibrahim said Nigeria was a natural tropical belt of fruits such as pineapple and citrus but regretted that the country still grappled with production, preservation and marketing of such products.
This he attributed to lack of cold stores to enhance storage.
He said that post-harvest losses emanating from spoilage due to chemical, mechanical, physiological and microbiological agents would be corrected by building the stakeholder’s capacity along value chains with the adoption of best agronomic practices.
The Rector of Imo Polytechnic, Dr Wence Madu, said that both Umuagwo and Ohaji, host communities of the polytechnic, lost 60 per cent of their produce yearly as a result of poor agronomic practices.
He said the anomaly had been addressed by the polytechnic which had initiated some agro-allied programmes, entrepreneurial skills and had a processing plant, making it a place to reckon with in terms of agricultural development.
Madu called for synergy among technical institutions in the country, industries and governments in the area of agricultural development.
He further called on Nigerians to have a change of attitude in patronising made in Nigeria products.
Mr Danbala Danju, the Managing Director of Bank of Agriculture, noted that lack of improved variety of fruits and total dependence on oil had impacted badly on the country’s national productivity and quality of life of the citizens.
He said there was need for the country to diversify its economy and stressed that the bank was ready to partner with institutions to finance youths in the area of agriculture.
Mr Sam Onyekwere, the State Coordinator of RMRDC, urged Nigerians to get back to the old method of farming to salvage the country’s economy. (NAN)