The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) has donated 20,000 improved seedlings to farmers in 2018 alone to boost the nation’s fruit juice sub-sector.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP at the council’s headquarters in Abuja, its director-general, Dr Hussaini Doko Ibrahim, said the agency distributed improved mango and citrus seedlings to farmers that would improve the shelf life of the fruits and cut down on post-harvest losses.
He said: “This year, 2018, 16,000 improved seedlings of mango and citrus were distributed to fruit farmers in the South-West and North-Central zones of the country for the 2018 planting season. The seedlings were produced in 2017and the distribution was done in the second quarter of 2018 when rain became established in the zones. Also, in May 2018, 4,000 seedlings of two varieties of mango (Kate exotic species and Ogbomoso mango) were distributed to farmers in a ceremony held at the FUMMAN farm in Ajaawa, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. This exercise will be continued on yearly basis until adequate planting materials are available in adequate and sustainable quantities.”
Listing other interventions by the council to prolong shelf life of fruits and develop Nigeria’s fruit juice sub-sector, the RMRDC boss stated that apart from training farmers and building their capacity to comply with global standards in fruit juice processing, the council had gone into partnership with other agencies of the Federal Government to develop seedlings with better varieties to reduce post-harvest losses.
To solve some of the problems faced by the industries in this sector, he said RMRDC in collaboration with the fruit juice group of the food, beverages and tobacco sector of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) organized a stakeholders’ forum on sourcing of raw materials for the fruit juice industry at the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) House, Ikeja, Lagos. At the meeting, according to him, the fruit juice producers complained about lack of elite materials for fruit juice production.
“This led the council in conjunction with National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) and FUNMAN Agro-products Industries Ltd, through the Science and Technology Education Post-Basic Project (STEP-B) to develop improved varieties of pineapple, banana, mango and citrus using tissue culture technique. The improved varieties produce more juice. In addition to other advantages, the project provided an opportunity to drive the deployment of the improved varieties and to promote investment in tropical fruits cultivation and processing. It also assisted in reducing importation of fruits for industrial processing locally.
“It has also made the fruits more available and affordable to the populace. The project has also addressed the goals of import substitution through increased local sourcing and promotion of utilization of local raw materials/products. One of the foremost achievements made under the project is that relevant research institutes (NACGRAB, NIHORT, NABDA) have been upgraded to efficiently and effectively undertake development and multiplication of the seedlings of most tropical fruits and to develop improved varieties,” he stated.
It would be recalled that the federal government in 2002 placed an import ban on fruit juices in retail packs, fruit juice drinks, fresh and dried fruits, a move that made fruit juice manufacturing companies to establish orchards to feed their plants. However, local farmers have continued to battle with the nation’s severe climatic conditions which results to about 30-50 per cent loss and up to 100 per cent in severe conditions as most of these fruits get spoilt on the way before getting to the final consumers in the urban centres.
The RMRDC boss noted that while the nation continues to find how to ameliorate the severe effects of the nation’s climate on the fruit juice subsector, the agency would continue to engage farmers and other strategic stakeholders to see a massive development of the sector.
“The commitment of the council to the development of this industry in Nigeria is being pursued spiritedly and assiduously. The council is at present working out modalities to ensure that participating farmers are provided with other necessary inputs such as chemicals and insect traps to prevent infestation of the fruits and fruit trees. The council has also worked out modalities for effective monitoring of the farms to ensure compliance with global best practices. Likewise, participating farmers are being linked with existing markets and processors to ensure higher profit and less wastage,” he stated.
Saying the council has perfected plans to import juice concentrating equipment for reverse engineering purposes in order to build the capacity of local engineers, he pointed out that it was ready to collaborate with state and local government authorities to establish fruit juice processing clusters in different parts of the country that have comparative advantages in tropical fruits production.