On food matters

Three issues came to the front burner as far as food matters are concerned. They are bordered on the disturbing increase in the level of patronage of unhygienic foods, opportunities available for grass-cutting farming, and the urgent need to embark on solid mechanisation of agricultural production in the country. According to a Professor of Agricultural Production Economics, Prof. Adewale Dipeolu, an increase in the patronage of unhygienic foods being prepared by informal vendors may lead to an epidemic that may compound the challenges already bedeviling the country. Prof. Dipeolu informed that the level of hygiene and the safety of the food, being sold in the informal sector were questionable. 

Prof. Dipeolu, the 66th Inaugural Lecturer of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, charged the respective government agencies to intensify efforts at ensuring that food items sold in public space and supermarkets received due certification to prevent substandard and expired products from getting into the market. The Don, who is of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management, College of Agricultural Management and Rural Development (COLAMRUD), made the call while delivering his Inaugural Lecture “Food Demand Decisions: Not Only the Numerics But the Characteristics”. According to him, such a government’s intervention may be preceded by well-organised public food safety enlightenment programmes for consumers and producers that would assist in minimising the patronage of informal food vendors. 

Meanwhile, an expert at the Directorate of University Farms (DUFARMS) of FUNAAB, Mr. Ezekiel Oladoyinbo has said that investing in grass-cutter farming is profitable. Mr. Oladoyinbo, who is the Head, Wildlife Domestication and Multiplication Unit of DUFARMS explained that the forage-gulping rodents did not require any compound feed or specially-made feed, as required in poultry farming, and they could be fed with grasses with robust stems such as sugarcane, elephant grass, Gamba grass, or another variant of grass called, Sanda Gamba. Mr. Oladoyinbo stated further that the animals could still be fed with any locally-produced roots such as cassava roots, potato, maize, millet, or corn. He advised that the housing of grass-cutter should be constructed in such a way that it would have a room-and-parlour compartment and a linking corridor, to allow for free movement of the rodents, warning that two males should not be kept together in a colony, but that there should be a combination of one male to four females.

This is because, if two males are kept together, they could fight themselves to death while proving superiority. Mr. Oladoyinbo hinted that apart from the high demand for grass-cutter for meat, a grass-cutter farmer could also make money by selling to other intending farmers, who might want to venture into grass-cutter farming and an opportunity to participate at agricultural shows and fairs, as he called on those, who may want to go into grass-cutter farming, to visit DUFARMS for proper and adequate training. A Senior Lecturer in the Department of Aquaculture and Fishery Management, College of Environment Resources Management (COLERM) of FUNAAB, Dr. Ikililu AbdulRaheem, has said there is a huge market to accommodate species of fish being produced by fish farmers. The Don noted that though Catfish and Tilapia species were dominant ones preferred by fish farmers because they contain more protein required for a healthy diet.

Dr. AbdulRaheem said fish farming could be done modestly at an individual’s backyard, starting with about 200 pieces of juvenile in plastic bowls, or on large scale with either dug out earthen, plastic, glass, or concrete tanks among others with more numbers, depending on the financial capability of the fish farmer. Talking about the profitability in fish farming, he explained that whether such farmer decided to engage in fish hatchery production, smoked fish production, or selling fish at table size. He, however, noted that the challenges confronting fish farmers include lack of technical know-how, high cost of fish feeds, which formed about 70 percent of inputs, and lack of regulations of the sector, among others. In a similar vein, an appeal has gone to the government and stakeholders in the agriculture sector to accord priority to mechanised farming to boost food security and promote job creation in the country.

This call was made by the Director, Directorate of University Farms (DUFARMS) of FUNAAB, Mr. Joseph Olobashola. According to him, there should be a deliberate approach to modernise agriculture by increasing the level of productivity to meet food sufficiency. Mr. Olobashola said Universities of Agriculture should facilitate activities that would encourage farming without necessarily going into direct production. The Director stressed that such universities should invest more in research to see how they can breed livestock and grow crops better. He reiterated that specialised agricultural institutions should also enhance and develop mechanisation of agriculture. Mr. Olobashola added that the University, through DUFARMS, had been working assiduously at bringing agriculture down to a level that students would take a keen interest in it. In the final analysis, there should be due attention accorded food safety, investing in the grass-cutter business, and why mechanisation should be embraced to ensure healthy living, reduce unemployment and promote food production in the country.