Following the global campaign for the fortification of all food products with micronutrients, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has collaborated with the Federal Government, the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc as well as chief executives of food processing companies in the country to intensify efforts on fortifying all food and food products on sale in Nigerian markets.
The World Health Organisation and the World Bank Group Joint Child Nutrition estimated that 41 per cent of Nigerian children under the age of five were stunted in 2017, while the United Nations Children’s Educational Fund has revealed that 10,235 children under the same age range were stunted in 2015.
Speaking in Lagos on Thursday night during the Nigeria Food Processing and Nutrition CEOs Forum, the President, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, called on the Federal Government to remove the import duty on micronutrient premixes used by processors to fortify food products.
He also urged the appropriate agencies of government to intensify efforts at curbing smuggling across the borders, noting that most of the food products smuggled into the country were not fortified.
Dangote stated, “We have agreed that if the agencies of government enter our markets and find food products with less nutrients than needed or that are not fortified at all, the firms producing them need to be shut.
“More than 10 million children are currently malnourished and we are making efforts to see how to save our children from malnourishment. We are more committed to fortification now and the regulatory agencies – the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control – have agreed that they will be more aggressive in implementing the policy.”
The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, said that it was a government policy that all foods must be fortified.
She stated, “There is a health issue. All our children have been suffering and fortified food strengthens them and gives them a better future. This meeting today is to ensure that everybody is on board.
“We had meetings with the CEOs and they have committed to fortify their food products and the government will also commit to addressing any challenge they have, such as making sure that the cost of production in terms of premix and their nutrients is brought down.
“There will be a meeting next year to review the agreement and what we all need to do. Government will review and see what can be done about the tariff on premix, because we are told that other countries have gone down to zero although that depends on each country and its circumstances.”
The Director, Nutrition Programme, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Shawn Baker, remarked that Nigeria had some of the biggest burden of malnutrition in the world.
He said, “You really cannot talk about reducing malnutrition in the world unless you also make significant progress in Nigeria.
“Two of our significant programmes are large-scale food products fortification and optimal breastfeeding. Only 17 per cent of mothers breastfeed exclusively within the first six months and that is when the child needs all the nutrients.
“Large-scale food fortification is important because if a child does not have the essential vitamins in their diet, they lack the essential nutrients for brain, immune system, eyesight development and for building adequate blood supply.”
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