A university lecturer, Titus Nwabueze, has called on the federal and state governments to intervene and establish African breadfruit plantations across the country to boost economic development and job creation.
Nwabueze, a professor in Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Umudike, Abia, made the call, on Wednesday, in his lecture on, “Bread on the Tree: Process Optimisation in Food Extrusion Technology,” delivered at the 31st Inaugural Lecture of the university.
Nwabueze said that African breadfruit had a lot of potential, which could be harnessed and exploited for the nation’s economic development.
“The Federal Government’s intervention through the Ministries of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Forestry, technological breakthrough, industrialisation and privatisation are the focal points in efforts to develop African breadfruit tree plantations in various states, where the environmental conditions are proper.
“The Government of Malaysia, in the 1960s, identified the huge unexploited potential of oil palm in Nigeria, introduced it and has today made the oil palm industry a major driving force in her economy.
“Therefore, the African breadfruit tree is not too tall a tree for Nigeria to fully harness its potential to boost the national economy,’’ he said.
Nwabueze said that the versatility and acceptance of extrusion as a food processing technology, as well as its worldwide adaptability, given its advantages over conventional methods, had made its application useful in African breadfruit value chain development.
He said that harnessing the potential of African breadfruit would help to grow the nation’s economy, adding that the crop could be a big foreign exchange earner for the country, if its potential was fully tapped.
Besides, Nwabueze, a professor of Food Science Technology, said that he had used African breadfruit to produce noodles, chips, snacks and malt drinks, among other foods, using the food extrusion technology.
With the aid of slides, he displayed the prototype dehuller and single-screw extruder, which he fabricated in the university.
In an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Nwabueze called for proper funding of research in the production of improved varieties of African breadfruit for enhanced yield.
He said that with government support, researchers would produce early-maturing and short-growing African breadfruit.
He said that with adequate funds and grants from the Federal Government, he could mass-produce the dehuller and single-screw extruders in commercial quantities.
He said that the technology would help to eliminate the cumbersome procedures associated with local processing of the African breadfruit, especially in rural communities.
He said that the proposed financial assistance from the government would also help local farmers of African breadfruit to boost their production.
Declaring the inaugural lecture closed, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Francis Otunta, congratulated the lecturer on his rich and profound work.
Otunta, who was represented by Offor Iwe, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), said that the lecture had further contributed toward the technological development of African breadfruit in Nigeria.