The National Agency for Foods, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) says it will go beyond its core regulatory mandate to help small and medium scale businesses in the country’s Northeast affected by the 12-year insurgency survive in the anticipated post-conflict era.
Dr Bukar Usman, NAFDAC’s Director in the Northeast zone, said in an exclusive interview with HumAngle that salvaging the socio-economic devastation that has taken place in the Lake Chad region in the last 12 years, requires a multi-pronged approach.
Usman said NAFDAC would also be helping small businesses in the agro-allied sector in weathering the storm of COVID-19 and insurgency-induced economic downturn.
The Nigerian regulatory agency for all processed consumables said the agro-allied sector is one of the worst affected by the insurgency that saw the destruction of all socio-economic fabrics of the sub-region.
The agency said the agricultural sector which accounts for nearly ‘90 per cent’ of the economic life of the people was brought to zero especially in Borno State which is the heartbeat of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The NAFDAC Zonal Director said the agency intends to go into value addition ventures with a bias on the agro-allied sector that falls within its mandate. Agricultural development is at the heart of the 25 Years Development Plan as well as the Ten Years Action Plan of Borno State.
The government of Borno State is stockpiling critical agricultural tools in anticipation of deploying the same as soon as it is safe for citizens to return to the farm. NAFDAC said one of the biggest industries that will boom after Boko Haram finally ends is the agro-allied enterprise.
Dr Usman said the huge investment that the Borno State government, for example, is making in the area of agriculture “will bring about a multitude of value chain industries at the SME level.”
He said most of the agro-allied value chain enterprises that will spring up in Borno and the Lake Chad region, depends on the processing, packaging and preservation of agricultural products. This, he said, falls within the mandate of NAFDAC.
“The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), are the backbone of the economy; NAFDAC is bringing to the northeast a value addition,” he said.
“More people are massively going into agriculture, and the tendency for people to process agro-based products will increase. And if you are processing an agricultural product, it means most of the products will end up being packaged.”
“Once one is processing and packaging, that enterprise has fallen within the mandate of NAFDAC. The mandate of NAFDAC is critical to adding value to whatever value addition they want to do in the agro-based sector.”
The Zonal Director said the biggest challenge to be faced by the SMEs in the agricultural sector businesses is the access to critical facilities for processing and packaging.
“There Is one major challenge for SME in meeting this standard,” he said. “On the issue of having the packaging or production facility, NAFDAC is now promoting the idea of fiat facilities or contract manufacturing consult.”
“The Fiat facility is done by encouraging the formation of cooperatives, and such cooperatives can have a single processing facility – may be owned by 15 persons or business entities and each one of them can use it and have a shared cost.”
He said NAFDAC would recognise the cooperative with such a facility and even register their processed products as long as the processing or packaging facility meets the standard of NAFDAC.
NAFDAC said the presence of a zonal testing lab in Maiduguri will also go a long way in helping many small and medium food processing outfits to reduce the stress of waiting for weeks and months to get their products tested and certified. “The zonal testing lab in Maiduguri has helped in reducing the stress of getting tests and approvals,” he said.
Dr Usman said NAFDAC has been able to secure the buy-in of Borno state in the area of supporting SME’s in the agro-allied processing and packaging industries to overcome the challenge associated with startups.
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