Prof. Francis Otunta, the Vice Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) in Abia, has called for the establishment of food processing plants in Nigeria to utlilize agricultural produce.
Otunta made the call on Tuesday during a press conference organised as part of the activities to mark the 9th convocation of the university, slated for Saturday.
He said that such plants would help to minimise waste, preserve lifespan of food and ensure food security for Nigeria.
He charged Universities of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Institutes to double their efforts and work tirelessly to ensure the availability of requisite skills in the country.
According to him, such skills will ensure adequate utilisation of local agricultural raw materials in the processing industries as well as substitution of numerous imported raw input for agro-based industries.
Otunta also urged government at all levels and private business concerns to encourage the emergence of agro-processing industries in rural communities close to urban centers.
He said that government could do so by providing infrastructure, such as good roads, to facilitate communication between the host communities and the cities.
Speaking on the convocation, he said that the university would award 6,214 Bachelor’s degrees, 160 postgraduate diplomas, 507 Masters’ degrees and 144 Doctorate degrees during the ceremony.
Otunta said that the university had made significant progress in the areas of staff and students’ welfare, staff training and development, infrastructure and ranking, among others, since the inception of his administration in March 2016.
He said that the insitution emerged 9th in the ranking of 121 Nigerian universities by the National Universities Commission, conducted between January 2 and March 7.
He described the position as an improvement from the 57th position the university occupied in the 2015/2016 ranking.
He said that the university had zero tolerance for examination malpractice, cultism, moral decadence and other social vices among the students.
The vice chancellor said that the institution placed high premium on research and extension activities geared toward contributing to Nigeria’s greatness through self-sufficiency in food and fibre production.
He called for more funding of the university, saying that the institution was among the universities that took off without take-off grant from the Federal Government.
The institution, which was established in 1992, with a core mandate on agriculture, currently has 11 colleges and two schools.