LAGOS  – High protein deficiency amongst both children and adults especially children under five years, adolescent girls, and women of reproductive age which results in malnutrition and other health hazards like stunted growth, underweight as well as infections has become a source of worry to experts in the soybean value chains.

It is on this premise that the Premier Agribusiness Academy (PAA) decided to partner with relevant government agencies and private sector players to chart way forward for the development of soybean across the value chains.

Some of the partners include U.S. SOY, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Health, Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), Nigerian Soybean Association (NSA), Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) among others across the soybean value chain.

The stakeholders are coming together at this level to chart a developmental course that will result in achieving increase in the production of soybean in Nigeria, reduce the cost of soybean production and make it affordable for human and animal consumption.

Francis Toromade, Director General of PAA while speaking at the first Nigerian Soy Excellence Centre (SEC) advisory council meeting in Lagos said that the contribution of soybean to protein intake cannot be overstressed as protein consumption is currently inadequate in Nigeria as a result of low production, high cost of production and importation.

While making reference to a research conducted in the United States of America, Toromade pointed out that, an average Nigerian consumes only 1kg of soybean per year whereas in the United States, its 55kg per person per year which could explain the difference in life expectancy.

“High-quality protein such as soybeans should be available, affordable and accessible by the high and low-income classes in the country especially to the vulnerable class who are mostly affected by protein deficiency and malnutrition.

“To overcome the challenge of protein deficiency and its accompanying health problems, USSOY and PAA as well as other critical indigenous stakeholders across the soybean value chain have agreed that proper, strategic training is of importance.

“The reason why we have such low rate of soybean production in Nigeria is knowledge gap. If people are properly trained in soybean production, they will know when and how to plant, what, how and when to apply which will result in better yield. Our agronomy practice is also a major reason for the deficiency which the Nigerian Soy Excellence Centre (SEC) has developed a curriculum to address.

“Farming will become attractive and more profitable especially to the young because they would have been equipped and trained with the needed skills needed to profit from the production of soybean through the guidance of all critical stakeholders and at a subsidized rate.”

Toromade added that SEC would be training over 500 interested persons between 2020 and 2021 with over 250 already showing interest.

While commenting on the role of the advisory council, Toromade said the obligation of the council is to provide guidance, advice and support in terms of advocacy to government as well as communicate training needs of the industry as it concerns individual sectors including human nutrition, aquaculture, agronomy and poultry.

Tola Johnson, Executive Director, Agboola Farms (Soybean Farmer/Aggregator), while speaking said that the initiative will help to adequately maximize the soybean industry in Nigeria and mitigate protein deficiency through the encouragement of soybean consumption and educating the various strata of the value chain; farmers, processors and consumers.

She expressed delight at the support SEC is receiving from USSOY who according to her have a lot of experience in soybean value chain.

Professor Garba Sharubutu, Executive Secretary of the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria, (ARCN), pointed out that the focus of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture aligns with the vision of SEC which is to partner with the private sector and other tiers of government to ensure that there is increased productivity of local crops in Nigeria and alleviation of poverty.

“The drive for SEC at the moment concentrates more on soybean production and to support the move, ARCN will include soybean in the newly approved Federal Government competitive research grant to encourage private sector researchers to develop proposals that will improve soybean productivity in the country” he said.

Members of the advisory council include; Director General, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Dr. Onallo Ankpa, Registrar/CEO, Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), Professor Eustace Iyayi, President, Catfish and Allied Fish Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Rotimi Oloye, President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Dr. Bartholomew Brai, President, Nigerian Soybean Association (NSA), Ayodele Uwala, Director General, Agricultural Research Institute of Nigeria (ARCN) Prof. Sharubutu Garba, Deputy Director, Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Victor Awoniyi.

Others are, Executive Director, Agboola Farms (Soybean Farmer/Aggregator), Tola Johnson, Asst. Director Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Christy Onyegbule, Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment (FMITI), Kaura Irimiya, Head Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Dr. Chris Isokpunwu, Director General PAA/SEC, Toromade Francis, Consultant USSEC, Dr. Micheal David and Senior Director, Ed Beaman.

Source: Independent