FG should support growers of local fruits - CEO, Primlaks Group

Venus Processing and Packaging Ltd (VPPL), a member of Primlaks Group and pioneer producer and exporter of Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) fruits and vegetables in Nigeria, has called on the federal government to support more private sector initiatives in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables in Nigeria.

Group Chief Executive Officer of Primlaks Group, Mr. Ravi Hemnani, said that government’s support of expansive cultivation and processing of local fruits and vegetables using latest innovations, particularly the Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) technology would help create millions of jobs, reduce post-harvest losses and earn foreign exchange.

IQF technology involves quick freezing of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables to lock in all their vitamins, nutrients and natural goodness. The technology offers a lot of benefits particularly because recent research efforts have suggested that frozen foods give high levels of vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Hemnani explained that VPPL invested a lot of capital on research and packaging before it set up Nigeria’s first IQF factory, as well as secured local and international certifications to achieve the delivery of products that meet world-class standards.

“We pioneered IQF fruit and vegetable production in Nigeria because we observed that Nigeria suffers from an estimated 40% post-harvest loss that should not be allowed to continue and we know that IQF has the potential to stop this unacceptable waste,” Hemnani said. He stressed, “We believe that our efforts will help in achieving the objectives of the federal government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda and offer Nigeria a huge revenue earning opportunity.”

According to him, government’s assistance to growers of local fruits and vegetables would create room for increased production, processing, utilisation and export.

“We require not less than 30,000 metric tons of raw materials per annum to run our own fruit and vegetable processing plant and we take this opportunity to call on government to include fruits and vegetables in future agricultural incentivised schemes,” he said.

VPPL is exploring options for integrated farmer outgrower programmes aimed at encouraging increased production through higher acreage and rapid expansion of the current highly fragmented and small inaccessible farms of between one and two acres.

“The resultant partnership of farmers and processors will create ready markets for farm produce, as well as the availability of right species, correct size of produce and ideal level of ripeness. This will also create a win-win-win situation for farmers, processors and Nigeria in terms of employment, return on investment, improved foreign exchange earnings and growth in gross domestic product,” Hemnani said.

Hemnani disclosed that VPPL’s investment in IQF technology has resulted in the production of the sympli brand, whose products include Nigerian chillies like ‘atarodo’, ‘sombo’ and ‘tatase’; and local delicacies like yam fries, yam chunks and dodo, as well as fruits like pineapple, papaya and mango. The products were exhibited at the ANUGA 2013 Food Expo in Cologne, Germany.

“We chose to exhibit at ANUGA 2013 because of our desire to showcase Nigerian products in the international market. ANUGA, the world’s largest food and beverage fair with nearly 7,000 exhibitors from close to 100 countries and about 155,000 trade visitors from 185 countries, gave us the ideal platform to fulfill our export objectives. We are particularly focused on reaching the large population of Africans in the diaspora, especially in Europe, America and the Middle East who present huge potential for foreign exchange earnings,” Hemnani said.

He expressed the company’s excitement in offering its top quality products in Nigeria to local supermarkets and to hotels, restaurants and caterers.