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Bakers demand termination of payments for cassava bread initiative development

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The Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria is calling on the Federal Government to terminate the N1,000 payment per 50kg bag of flour meant for the development of the cassava bread initiative.

The bakers say that it is fraudulent for the government to still be collect payment for the policy development when the initiative has since collapsed.

“No flour miller in Nigeria is adding cassava flour into their flour as we speak. Yet, the government is still collecting N1,000 on every 50kg bag of flour sold in the country” Jude Okafor, national publicity secretary, Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria said in a telephone response to BusinessDay questions.

“The fund collected by the government is meant for development of the cassava bread initiative. What then is the government developing when the policy has been abandoned for more than four years now?” Okafor asked.

He stated that prices of flour would have been cheaper if the extra N1,000 paid on each 50kg were not included, saying consumers would have been paying less for bread than they are paying now.

He called on the Federal Government to terminate the payment and use the already collected funds to support bakers and cassava flour processors across the country.

The cassava flour initiative started in 2002 when flour millers’ were mandated to substitute five percent cassava flour in wheat flour meant for baking bread and production of other confectionaries.

In 2007, the policy, which was already gaining momentum, was abandoned as the Obasanjo led government left office, thus bringing the whole policy process to a halt.

After five years of being abandoned, in 2012, former President Goodluck Jonathan re-introduced the cassava flour inclusion policy to encourage the substitution of high quality cassava flour for wheat flour and the inclusion rate increased steadily from 10 percent to 40 percent by 2015.

Since 2015, the policy has collapsed and no flour miller in the country is currently including cassava flour to their production.

“We have no record to the effect that any flour miller in the country is adding even one percent of HQCF to its production of flour currently,” Ayo Olubori, chairman, National Cassava Processors and Marketers Association (NCAPMA) said in a telephone interview.

“The millers are not buying from us and are not willing to off take at the price we are offering to sell,” Olubori said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nigeria’s 2018/19 wheat imports are estimated to be 5.4 million metric tons, a four percent increase from 2017/18 estimates.

The report attributed the increase in wheat imports to millers’ growing access to foreign exchange and increase consumption.

Responding to BusinessDay’s questions on while flour millers have abandoned the policy, Olalekan Saliu, secretary, Flour Milling Association of Nigeria said that most of the cassava flour in the market is not of industrial standard but that flour millers are still buying up the industrial grade cassava flours from big processors like Thai Farms .

“Most of the cassava flour produced by the small and medium sized processors is of low quality and does not meet industrial requirements but we are still buying what is available from processors with industrial grade cassava flour,” Saliu said.

Also, government’s inconsistency and failure to effect the use of cassava flour has also resulted in the loss of huge revenues that could have accrued from an active industry.

Nigeria’s local demand for HQCF is put at 504,000MT and supply is 60,480MT, according to data from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).

 

Josephine Okojie

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