An agribusiness and food innovation technocrat, Dr Tony Bello, says capable Nigerians in the diaspora should be utilised in building a sustainable and resilient economy in the country.
Bello, who is the Managing Director, Shine Bridge Global Incorporated, said this on Friday in Lagos during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
He spoke against the backdrop of the Federal Government’s Development of Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) 2021 to 2025.
Bello said the agricultural sector, which contributed hugely to the nation’s coffers, as an economic driver, should get the best hands to steer the wheel of affairs for growth and sustainability.
He said that farmers in the country were producing enough food for local consumption.
According to him, the farmers can venture into exporting, if technologies, experts, storage, value addition, among others are put in place to help generate foreign exchange earnings.
“The potential to feed ourselves and then export is there, we must recognise that the smallholder farmers are the largest private sector group that we have in the country.
“With their limited experience and exposure, they are able to feed 200 million people in this country year in year out but we need we to subsidise and complement what the farmers are producing.
“What is lacking is not the consumer that will eat the food, but lack of value addition to what the farmers produce to completely eliminate what the development people call post-harvest losses.
“The only answer to post harvest loss is food processing and food manufacturing into consumer packaged foods.’’
He said the country needed to invest in the areas of the farmers’ produce and what they are able to supply.
“Losing fresh produce due to lack of preservation techniques, food processing, and manufacturing into consumer package goods is where we need to invest.
“Let us bring capable hands in the diaspora who have created global brands working for corporate America and in European countries.
“It’s time for the government to seek for those talents, pull them together to get the job done; it is not that difficult,” Bello said.
He said that Nigeria should combine human and trustworthy capital to build a resilient food system and eliminate foreign exchange flight on food imports.
“It is not rocket science to get cornflakes out of corn, there must be efforts put into that; the knowledge base is there, combine human capital with the truth capital and you will see that we will be able to feed ourselves more.
“Industrialisation is the key to economic and agricultural growth. Let’s industrialise cassava, root vegetable, potatoes and others.
“Let us graduate to what the rest of the world have done with potatoes and re-apply this science, engineering and technology to transform cassava into a global industrial food ingredient.
Bello called for more innovation and value addition to process cassava into flour for shawama and fries.
He said the government needed those that were of high income, professionals and practitioners to help in achieving such development.
Bello said such would help to grow the regional African market under the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“Let us leverage on the United States AGOA, Donald Trump’s 60 billion dollars of capital inflow under the prosper Africa initiative.
“Nigeria has always had an abundance of ideas, visions and agenda which are very clear on its terms but the lacked 100 per cent implementation,” he said.
Edited By: Celine-Damilola Oyewole/Oluwole Sogunle