Thau­matin cul­ti­va­tion and pro­cess­ing, a po­ten­tially re­ward­ing ven­ture area

The Punch - - AM BUSINESS - Jennifer Abra­ham jeni­huomabra­[email protected]­hoo.com 08148137781

THERE are many re­sources that hold great po­ten­tial for Nige­ria if ad­e­quately tapped and, like I said in my last ar­ti­cle, the pri­vate sec­tor needed not wait on the gov­ern­ment to herd her into prof­itable ar­eas of foray; she can step ahead to make her own dis­cov­er­ies.

The busi­ness com­mu­nity must now take it upon her­self to sniff out in­no­va­tive ideas that it can groom into prof­itabil­ity. One of the harms that the ex­tant petro-econ­omy has in­flicted on us is a du­bi­ous docil­ity and re­luc­tance to part­ner with bud­ding ideas and the as­so­ci­ated teething strug­gles.

Till date, the oil in­dus­try, de­vel­oped by ex­pa­tri­ates, is prac­ti­cally the only de­vel­oped sec­tor in Nige­ria; even though the down­stream sub­sec­tor is still un­derde­vel­oped.

As sad as these pic­tures may ap­pear, they still rep­re­sent new op­por­tu­ni­ties for those who will rather light can­dles than curse the dark­ness.

I say this be­cause it is in­evitable that as the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to miss its rev­enue tar­gets, it will in­cre­men­tally loosen its tight grip on the econ­omy to al­low pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion through dereg­u­la­tion and other in­cen­tives.

The en­tre­pre­neur and other prospec­tive par­tic­i­pants in the emerg­ing econ­omy where oil may no longer hold sway would have to in­vest in vi­able ideas and Nige­ria has many of such yearn­ings to be plucked.

One of the com­pelling fields where new busi­nesses must look into is the gown com­mu­nity. Knowl­edge of avail­able re­sources in the coun­try and a de­sire to trade in them is no longer enough for wealth cre­ation in con­tem­po­rary times.

In times past, colo­nial­ists helped our peo­ple to de­velop huge plan­ta­tions for the ex­port of raw com­modi­ties.

Un­for­tu­nately, many in­vestors still want to con­tinue to par­tic­i­pate at that level. To­day’s in­dige­nous in­vestor how­ever needs to en­gage science to ex­plore the value chains of com­modi­ties and plough more knowl­edge­ably to at­tract bet­ter re­turns.

This can only be achieved through ac­quain­tance with con­tem­po­rary re­search and de­vel­op­ment find­ings on in­dige­nous raw ma­te­ri­als. Gov­ern­ment should have been fund­ing the pro­mo­tion of break­throughs for a long time now but, as has been wit­nessed over the years, the coun­try’s knowl­edge fac­to­ries, in­clud­ing the re­search in­sti­tutes have been grossly ne­glected. The pri­vate sec­tor now has to, for its own sur­vival, fill the gap.

A South African-based Pro­fes­sor of Biotech­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Zu­l­u­land, Kwad­langezuwa, Abidemi Kappo, says he has been able to re­alise much of his re­search goals in a way that would have been im­pos­si­ble had he re­mained in Nige­ria be­cause the Gov­ern­ment of that coun­try prices and funds the knowl­edge in­dus­try.

Ac­cord­ing to him, re­searchers on im­por­tant prod­ucts are ad­e­quately funded to meet their goals, and even stu­dents are sup­ported with about an an­nual grant of N2.4mil­lion per an­num for stud­ies.

This is the path that Nige­ria needs to tread if she is se­ri­ous about gen­er­at­ing ideas that would power her di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion drive.

One of the raw ma­te­ri­als which holds great po­ten­tial for the Nige­rian econ­omy which in­dige­nous en­trepreneurs and in­vestors need to be in­ter­ested in, is Thau­matin.

An in­ter­ac­tive ses­sion with the In­ter­na­tional Re­search Net­work on Al­ter­nate Sweet­en­ers (in­ter­rnas) con­vened by Pro­fes­sor Baba­jide Elemo of the La­gos State Univer­sity, who has worked ex­ten­sively on Thau­matin, to brain­storm on how the po­ten­tials of Thau­matin can be har­nessed for wealth cre­ation and health se­cu­rity pro­voked the de­sire to pro­mote this busi­ness idea once again. Thau­matin (Thau­ma­to­coc­cus danielli) is a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring pro­tein sweet­ener found in the fruits of a shrub lo­cally known as Ewe eran in Yoruba.

It first caught the at­ten­tion of the Western world in 1840 when Bri­tish Army Sur­geon W. F Daniel no­ticed how lo­cals used it and re­ported his find­ings in a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal jour­nal.

In Ghana, the plant is called Katemfe and the Ghana­ian gov­ern­ment, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with pri­vate in­vestors has un­der­taken a lo­cal agro- forestry project for its cul­ti­va­tion.

In ad­di­tion, Thau­matin pro­cess­ing plants have been con­structed in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions and Tate and Lyle is mar­ket­ing the prod­uct in that coun­try un­der the patent, Talin. An In­dian science-preneur at the in­ter­rnas con­fer­ence also told me that in his coun­try, Thau­matin has been in use by food and drugs in­dus­tries for about six years now and re­search work is on­go­ing to de­velop table-top packs; pos­si­bly in com­bi­na­tion with an­other sweet­ener, Ste­via.

In Nige­ria where the po­ten­tials of this plant was first dis­cov­ered, we are yet to uti­lize it for com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage beyond the use of the plant leaves as wraps for moi-moi and ofada rice.

Ac­cord­ing to the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of FIIRO, Prof. Glo­ria Elemo, we need to de­velop our Thau­matin re­sources, not only be­cause it will bridge the cur­rent sugar sup­ply gap cur­rently be­ing met through im­por­ta­tion but be­cause it is a health­ier al­ter­na­tive to sugar and

MEGS which are al­leged to be re­spon­si­ble for The rise in chronic dis­eases like Obe­sity and Di­a­betes.

The mar­ket for low calo­rie sweet­en­ers in the U.S alone is set at 900 mil­lion dol­lars per an­num. Thau­matin is priced above other sweet­en­ers be­cause it is nat­u­ral; and, ac­cord­ing to a sci­en­tist at the Fed­eral In­sti­tute of In­dus­trial Re­search Oshodi, Dr. Chima Igwe, it is 3,000 times sweeter than sugar. So, it is an al­ter­nate sweet­ener with health ben­e­fits and com­mer­cial po­ten­tials.

The in­vest­ing pub­lic must now utilise the re­search in­for­ma­tion from the science com­mu­nity to fund the cul­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tion of Thau­matin for profit.

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