Technology, key to nation’s food security expert

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By Philip Ezuma, Port Harcourt

The Managing Director of Daa Rhoda Foods, a food processing and packaging company, Mrs. Onyinyechi Onyembi (nee Egbu), affirms that technology holds the key to ensuring food security in the country.

Onyinyechi Onyembi, who spoke in an interview with our correspondent yesterday, in Port Harcourt, stated that the use of technology in the food processing and packaging, was the major driver in transforming farm produce to acceptable export goods, noting that it would save time and reduces cost, leading to increased productivity to meet increasing demand for food products.

The agro-industry expert said that high tech processing and packaging is emerging as a key tool to improve agriculture in Nigeria. She stated: “For us in Daa Rhoda Foods, we use the right technologies to add value to farm products, through processing and we transform farm products from their earth form into ready to use products.

“Our products are uniquely processed and packaged to meet international standards and this has made it possible for us to significantly break through in the international market thereby promoting export diversification and international trade opportunities for Nigeria.”

“As a Food and Beverage Manufacturing firm, we are determined to push Nigerian indigenous soup condiments into the international market. We process and package dried ground food produce, such as Egusi, Ogbono, Crayfish, Prawn and Pepper.”

Daa Rhoda Foods boss, explained the role her firm is playing in revitalizing the agro-processing and packaging sector, to reverse the negative food import trend in Nigeria.

According to her, the answer rests on the twin engine of using the right tools and deploying trained personnel, stressing that utilizing the right set of equipment and skilled labour ensures increase in productivity, which in turn reduces production costs and maintains premium quality.

She recommended: “The Nigerian government and private investors should invest in the agro-processing and packaging sector which should be geared towards the purchase of modern equipment and adequate infrastructure. Machines are much faster and guarantees increased productivity and minimal production cost. It is pertinent to facilitate access to capital, build the capacity of agro business and position agro-processors for efficient food output delivery.”

The Managing Director further recommended reforming the agricultural curricula in Nigerian universities to address the gaps in industry skills, as well as harmonizing food standards with international benchmarks and supporting processors to achieve global certifications.

Speaking on challenges facing the agro-processing and packaging sector, the Daa Rhoda boss acknowledged the key challenges facing Nigeria’s agro-processing and packaging sector as inadequate Infrastructure, poor road networks, electricity and water supply, noting that these factors drive up costs and limit productivity.

Others, she said are: “Limited financing, high-interest rates and collateral requirements that hinder access to credit for processors to upgrade and expand; low technology adoption on account of minimal automation, and inefficient equipment affect quality and safety. Again, we contend with inconsistent raw material supply, seasonal gluts and scarcity of inputs, like fruits, undermine processors. Not forgetting poor skilled labour, as few food technologists and engineers lead to low efficiency and poor innovation.”

On financing, she said that Daa Rhoda Foods operates on internally raised finance which allows the key players to focus on the strategy for growth and sustainability rather than worrying about loan repayment.

Addressing the concerns for quality, Onyinyechi Onyembi said that Daa Rhoda Foods has put in place food and safety measures that must be adhered to by all her workers to ensure that set standards are met to ensure quality control.

To ensure Quality Control, she said: “Daa Rhoda Foods has built proper processes over the years such as inspecting raw materials on arrival, clean environment, periodic professional checks and cleaning of equipment. We ensure that our factory workers and managers are well trained and attention detailed to monitor all the levels of production. We are consistent with our products quality and track our products from raw materials to finished products.

“Daa Rhoda Food has partnered with efficient suppliers who ensure that supplies are made as at when due to avoid delays. We eliminate waste by accurately forecasting demand and managing inventory levels through the use of technology such as inventory management software, to track inventory levels and predict demand.”

Giving more insights on strategy, Onyinyechi Onyembi observed that Daa Rhoda Foods ensured an improved transportation and distribution system by optimizing logistics and transportation routes to minimize transportation costs and reduce lead times.

Still on strategy, she maintained: “At Daa Rhoda Foods human capital development is important to us. We organize periodic training for the members of our staff to hone their skills and keep them abreast with the trends in the industry.

“A well-trained workforce gives us the edge in the processing and packaging industry. A combination of the right equipment and financial dexterity has made our firm one where “freshness meets convenience, thus setting the pace for local Nigerian food processing and packaging industry in the international market.”

The Daa Rhoda Managing Director emphasized the importance of providing high quality food products that are freshly processed and packaged for the local and international markets. She noted: “In our industry, priority must be given to preserving nature’s goodness and guaranteeing a seamless move from farm to table.”