NIGERIA loses $1.5billion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yearly to deficiencies of vitamin and mineral in its staple food, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has said.
He disclosed that Nigeria would require annual investment of $188 million to scale up micronutrients in staple foods, as most staple foods produced in the country are low in essential micronutrients.
The minister who disclosed this during a stakeholders’ workshop on the adoption of ‘Vitamin-A rich Sweet Potatoes’ in the country, said the scaling up of micronutrients in staple foods could be achieved through nutritional supplementation and diversity of diets.
Quoting from the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), he said approximately between 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children in the developing world go blind each year as a result of Vitamin A deficiency.
The report further revealed that 43 per cent of under-five children in Nigeria are stunted, adding that stunted children may never regain the height lost and most will never gain the corresponding weight.
He maintained that that bio-fortification provides one of the best ways to achieve improvements in nutrition. Being the largest cassava producer in the world, Adesina hinted that the goal of the current administration was to make Nigeria the largest processor of cassava globally.
“That is why we are focusing on the use of high quality cassava flour in bread product. The cassava bread has been commercialized, it is healthier and tastier bread, much better than white wheat flour bread,” he noted.
Adesina also disclosed that cassava flour inclusion policy will help save N254 billion yearly from the cost of wheat import. “That is the money that will go into the hands of farmers and processors in Nigeria, instead of siphoning away our foreign exchange to keep their farmers and exporting jobs,” he averred.
He said the adoption of Vitamin-A rich sweet potato that is extremely rich in beta-carotene is an essential human nutrient, noting that the white-fleshed varieties don’t have beta-carotene.
He said the newly introduced orange-fleshed varieties by the Hellen Keller Institute in Nairobi, Kenya could supply the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A for children and non-lactating women.
The project, which will span four years, is targeted at six states of the federation: Nassarawa, Kwara, FCT, Benue, Ebonyi and Osun states.