The Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) will give 20,000 improved seedlings to farmers to boost the fruit juice sub-sector, its Director-General, Dr. Hussaini Dikko Ibrahim,
The agency has distributed improved mango and citrus seedlings that would improve their shelf life cut down on post-harvest losses.
Ibrahim disclosed that over 16,000 improved seedlings of mango and citrus were distributed to fruit farmers in the Southwest and Northcentral for the 2018 planting season.
He added that the seedlings were produced last year while the distribution was in the second quarter of this year when the rains started in the zones.
He said: “In May 2018, 4,000 seedlings of two varieties of mango – Kate exotic species and Ogbomoso mango were distributed to farmers at a ceremony held at the FUMMAN farm in Ajaawa, Ogbomoso, Oyo State. The exercise will be yearly until adequate planting materials are available in sustainable quantities.”
Listing other interventions by the council to prolong shelf life of fruits and develop the sub-sector, Ibrahim said aside training farmers and building their capacity to comply with global standards in fruit juice processing, the council partnered with other agencies to develop seedlings with better varieties to reduce post-harvest losses.
On the challenges in the sector, he explained that they collaborated with the fruit juice group of the food, beverages and tobacco sector of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in organising a stakeholders’ forum on sourcing of raw materials for the industry in Lagos.
On the complaint of fruit manufacturers on the lack of what they called elite materials for fruit juice production, he said they partnered with the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) and FUNMAN Agro-products Industries Ltd to develop improved varieties of pineapple, banana, mango and citrus using tissue culture technique.
Furthermore he said the project provided an opportunity to drive the deployment of the improved varieties and to promote investment in tropical fruits cultivation and processing while assisting in reducing the importation of fruits for processing locally.
He said: “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”.
He also said one of the foremost achievements of the project was that NACGRAB, NIHORT, NABDA have been upgraded to efficiently and effectively undertake development and multiplication of seedlings of most tropical fruits.
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.
He pledged the preparedness of the council to the development of the sub sector in the manufacturing industry.