The Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN) Nigeria, a project of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), has held a Cold Chain Summit to chart a course for the cold chain industry in addressing food insecurity issues in Nigeria.

Held at the Renaissance Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos state, the event themed “Cold Chain: An Environment Enabler for Reducing Postharvest Losses, Improving Nutrition and Economic Diversification”, brought together relevant stakeholders in the food, research, finance and cold chain industry to carve out a path that would proffer solutions in combating food security challenges in the country.

Speaking at the occasion, Senior Project Manager of PLAN Nigeria, Dr. Augustine Okoruwa affirmed that as a development organisation dedicated to repressing post-harvest losses and improving nutrition, PLAN is directing urgent focus to the cold chain, a sector with high potential, yet insufficient attention. In his words “The cold chain industry needs to be revitalised. This is why we decided to organise this summit to brainstorm on how we can move the industry forward, which has the potential to substantially reduce post-harvest losses and improve nutrition in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, in her Keynote Presentation titled “Cold Chain: The Game-Changer in the Fight for Food Security and Improved Nutrition”, Director General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Prof. Gloria Elemo, identified infrastructural deficits as a major impediment to attaining acceptable postharvest gains while harping on the importance of investing in the cold chain industry.

“Most of our perishable crops spend quite a long distance from the farm to the market, and with lots of infrastructural problems to grapple with, we experience high post-harvest losses. So for us to maintain them in their wholesome forms and still retain their nutrients, the cold chain system is very important to ensure adequate storage of these foods. So this summit comes at a very crucial time but it requires more advocacy so as to encourage interested entrepreneurs, businesses and individuals willing to invest in the industry” she added.

Some participants who spoke with AgroNigeria, expressed that the cold chain industry presents a viable option to ease the burden of farmers who often complain of inadequate storage facilities for their produce after harvests. In their view, ideas put forward by PLAN Nigeria must be taken seriously if Nigeria is to solve her food security problems.

According to the Vice President of the Nigerian Agribusiness Group (NABG), Emmanuel Ijewere, stakeholders need to change their mindset about seeing infrastructural deficits as a challenge.

“We know quite right that there are lots of infrastructural deficits in the country. But, we have to purge our minds from this weak mindset, and look towards finding proper solutions through supporting more private sector interventions who are really interested in solving most of this problems, most especially in the cold chain value chain,” he said.

On his part, Managing Director, Crystal Associates, Kano state, Dr. Muhammad Auwalu Haruna, who delivered a presentation titled “Why we need cold chain Mapping in Nigeria” provided the audience with detailed statistics on cold chain mapping zones that could be effective for various crop produce.

Haruna said “Cold chain mapping is a very detailed work. If we organise a proper workable system which allows people to easily access specific data crops as well as the cause of wastage from mapping, it equips people with requisite knowledge for them to plan so as to eliminate waste in the future.”

Managing Principal, Food Health Systems Advisory Ltd (FHSA), Vivian Maduekeh, also described the cold chain industry as important. He called for more investments in the industry.

Various plenary sessions at the summit were on “Opitimal logistics systems in the cold chain”, “standards and regulations: Critical success factors for economic Competitiveness”, Evolving financial models for improved nutrition funding of the cold chain sector,” and Local Manufacturing: Challenges and growth Opportunities in cold chain development.” Further discussions explored ways through which technology could aid the ‘cold- chain’ approach and how they could be made easily accessible to farmers.