‘Nigeria can make N2.4tr yearly from natural medicine products’



More experts are lending their voices on how to change the dwindling economic fortunes of the country following the ‘fall’ of the oil sector as Nigeria’s main foreign exchange earner.

A professor of Pharmacy/Pharmacognosy and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bioresources Development Group (BDG), Maurice M. Iwu, in a paper titled “Boosting Sustainable Development Goals: Improving Health and Economy Through Natural Materials Research and Development,” said Nigeria can make up to $1.2 trillion (N2.4 trillion) yearly from natural medicine.

Iwu said the genetic resources and products market is worth between $500 to $800 billion yearly; and the organic food and beverage is valued at $20 billion per year and has growth rate of 10 to 40 per cent in the United States (U.S.), European Union (EU), and Japan. Iwu also said that the country could earn $22 billion every year by marketing dietary supplements; and $260 billion from ecotourism.

The pharmacist said the development of local herbs into teas, capsules, tonic bitters, herbs, infusions, and fluids would fetch the country huge foreign exchange.

He said BDG has developed teas from Moringa oleifera (moringa), Zingiber officinalis (ginger), Vernonia amygdalina (bitter leaf), Ocimum gratissimum (scent leaf), Garcinia kola (bitter kola), Hibiscus sabdariffa (zobo), Combretum micranthum and Curcuma longa.

Iwu said Moringa, Vernonia, Garcinia kola and Irvingia gabonensis (African bush mango) have been developed by BDG and marketed as capsules; and Moringa, ginger, Vernonia and Hibiscus as herbs.

He said a combination of Gongronema latifolia (utazi in Ibo), Combretum micrantha, Andrographis paniculata, and Garcinia kola have been developed and marketed as infusion bitters; and virgin coconut oil with honey as fluid.

The CEO of BDG said the company was set up to promote sustainable utilization of African biological resources for health, economic development and conservation of the biodiversity and develop partnerships with agencies, communities and governments for sustainable development.

He said BDG is an organization that facilitates the sustainable utilization of natural products for socio-economic development and conservation of the environment.
Iwu said the group operates the integrated triple-helix approach involving scientific cooperation research and development business.

He said that International Centre is championing drug development for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD) makers of InterCEDD Health Products (IHP), a subsidiary of BDG.

Iwu said for sustainable development, Agro technology Trust Funds (FIRD) Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Farms Bio Trade Initiative was established.

He said the Bio resources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), founded in 1992, is partnership of academic institutions, scientists, policy experts and industry, which is linking biodiversity, health and economic development of rural areas; creating a value chain from farm to laboratory to the market. Iwu said BDCP is also a boundary organization promoting partnerships between industrialized countries and developing countries’ institutions in biosciences.

Iwu said Bio resources Institute of Nigeria (BION) coordinates scientific and technical cooperation and BDCP operated as a virtual research organization, along with centers of excellence in science and technology as applied to medicinal plant Research and Development (R&D).

Iwu said farming is only part of a vertically integrated system of agricultural production and agri-business. He said the missing link is biosciences to provide value-added chain through the provision of products and services such as:
*Primary agriculture and forestry processing services such as grain milling, oilseed crushing, and lumber milling.
*The manufacturing and supply of agricultural, inputs such as seed, fertilizer, insecticides, farm equipment, etc.
*The value-added manufacturing of food, nutrition and health products.

*The production of industrial products from biomass including fuels, chemicals, materials, paper and textiles.
*For strategic investment of N1 billion each to 20 faculties of agriculture, Universities of Agriculture/ Technology and N100 million investment in challenge grants each to 20 leading industry-based biochemical scientists, the following Return On Investment (ROI) have been projected (five years): 3.2 million skilled labour; 60 location quotient bio-processing facilities; import substitution; and wealth creation.

Iwu said products to be considered for Bio-Trade include: Bitter kola, Zobo, ginger, bitter leaf, scent leaf, coconut, Okpella groundnut, yam, Ugba, dried pepper, Abakiliki unpolished rice, virgin coconut oil, Shea butter, sesame seed oil, Ogbono, gum Arabic, palm kernel oil, and cassava pellets.

Iwu said African herbs; spices and medicinal plants have been identified as specialty crops. He said isolated pure compounds and medicines, cosmetics and nutraceuticals derived from them; extracts, purified fractions and formulations derived from them; and standardized whole plants or plant parts and consumer goods derived from them.

According to Iwu, African medicinal are currently not major articles of trade in the global market; and only about 10 per cent of over 5000 plant species used in traditional medicine in Africa have been commercialized in any significant manner, with less than 100 medicinal species traded on international markets.

He said only four African medicinal plants were included in the four volumes of the “Selected Monographs of Medicinal Plants” published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Iwu noted: “The problem is not lack of experts or resources; not even the absence of the necessary infrastructure or technology; but the inherent inability of developing countries, especially Africans to Connect the Dots and the impatience to follow a narrative that will yield the desired benefits over time.”

The pharmacognocist said there are new realities in the global economy: The trans-national nature of capital, industry and labour; changing waves of the biotechnology sector; and recognition of exclusion (or discrimination) and not exploitation as the new threat on equity and sustainable development.

Iwu said the key multiples in supply chain of specialty crops include: make produce available for consumer use; advertise the product to increase sales; supply value added products; keep track of consumer preference; monitor suppliers; and set the retail price for your produce based on the supply and demand factors and market competition.

He said BDG is a one-stop shop and sales center with nation wide outlets in major cities in Nigeria like Lagos, Abuja, Owerri and Enugu with a fitness center.
“We deal on not just IHP products but other natural health products. We also promote general wellness by sharing health information to people through our living well and healthy magazine, pamphlets, brochures, flyers, “ he said.

Iwu said BIN is an institution created under BDG to promote high quality scientific research and training on sustainable utilization of biological resources for health, economic development and conservation of the environment.

He said: “With standard farms at Abuja (Kuje), Benue (Olagbocha) and Imo (Mbano) we grow most of the raw materials we use for manufacturing. BION maintains a world class Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-processing center at Umuna Okigwe (Imo State).

“Our yield is chemical free and end products are made from organic ingredients grown without harmful pesticides. IHP products are derived from plants grown in BION farms. BION conducts training and certification on BIO entrepreneurship and organic produce.”

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