Aliko Dangote, president of the Dangote Group, says the devaluation of the naira will not affect the food fortification targets set by leaders in the Nigerian food industry.
Dangote said this at the 3rd Annual Nigeria Food Processing and Leadership Forum, which he chaired alongside Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
According to Technoserve, international nonprofit promoting business solutions to poverty in developing countries, the average cost of fortification in developing countries is $0.15 per person annually.
With the recurrent devaluation of the naira against the dollar, there are concerns that the fluctuations in the local currency could derail the food industry’s plan to attain 100 percent fortification soon.
Reacting to this, Dangote said the devaluation “is not going to affect our target regardless of the dollar exchange rate because as we speak, we are actually doing the fortification — not making the consumers pay.
“It is not part of our cost, we take it as a service and we are not charging for fortification. It will not affect our target.
“But the naira will be stable as we go along; I don’t think the naira will go more than where it is today.”
Fielding questions from TheCable on the impact of the pandemic on Nigeria’s fortification plans and the reported hoarding of food items in warehouses, Dangote said that the pandemic did not stop the food fortification and distribution process.
“The issue is that the pandemic did not stop us from distributing food items; if you look at it, during the lockdown, government allowed some food items to be distributed. Essential commodities.
“We did not stop fortifying food items. But you know there is what you call the RUTF [ready-to-use therapeutic food], which we as Dangote Foundation are launching and we are going to spend a lot of money [on].
He said his foundation is working with BMGF to make sure that children are not malnourished.
“On a corporate level, I can assure you that food items are all over the place; even during the pandemic, we supplied. Yes, we have had challenges at the beginning because most of the states were closing their borders,” he added.
“Mind you, we had warehouses all over the place and those warehouses were able to feed most of the states before they started opening the borders. For now, we are doing very well, food items are moving freely.”
NIGERIA LOSSES $1.5BN TO POOR NUTRITION ANNUALLY
Nigeria loses over US$1.5 billion in GDP annually from lower productivity and higher health care costs resulting from poor nutrition, according to Technoserve.
“Nigeria faces the biggest burden of under-nutrition in Africa and is home to the world’s second-largest population of malnourished children,” Technoserve said via a statement.
“One out of three Nigerian children under the age of five are considered stunted—their bodies and brains are deprived of the key nutrients they need to fully develop and reach their potential.
“Nearly half of all child deaths in the country are attributable to malnutrition.”
As a result of the dire consequences of malnutrition, BMGF began funding the Strengthening African Processors for Food Fortification (SAPFF), a four-year, $10M initiative partnership to address the issues.
SAPFF is working with 40 food companies in Nigeria, as well as additional companies in Kenya and Tanzania, to improve their capacity to produce and sell fortified foods for local markets.
Larry Umunna, west Africa regional director at TechnoServe, who addressed the press on the progress made said: “If Nigeria is really serious about creating jobs, expanding its markets and growing its economy, nutrition and food systems should be put in the centre of the conversation”.
NIGERIA’S FOOD FORTIFICATION PROGRESS
After three years of leadership engagement by the federal government and CEOs of the nation’s largest food processing companies, significant progress has been reported on fortifying Nigerian staple foods with micronutrients essential to achieving better health and nutrition for all.
From 2017 to 2020, the population reached with wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid increased from 54 percent to 92 percent, according to data from Technoserve.
The nonprofit added that the population reached with sugar fortified with Vitamin A increased from 31 percent to 96 percent, while salt iodization levels were maintained at 95 percent.
Edible oil fortified with Vitamin A was also reported to have made progress, but to a lesser degree, with the population reached with fortified cooking oil increasing from 25 percent to 32 percent.
Speaking on the progress made so far, Bill Gates who joined the meeting virtually, said “vitamin A is one of the most critical nutrients kids need to grow up healthy—but too few kids receive a sufficient amount in their diet”.
“The world needs to fortify more foods with Vitamin A. The leaders in this meeting have already shown what’s possible for wheat flour, salt, and sugar. I hope that by the next time we meet, cooking oil will be added to the list.”
The CEO forum also had Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Niyi Adebayo, minister of industry, trade and investment; and Zouera Youssoufou, MD/CEO of the Dangote Foundation; and other major food processing companies CEOs in attendance. (The Cable)