The launch of bread baked with 20 percent cassava flour in highbrow supermarkets such as Park n’ Shop is having positive effect on farmers, as banks are now eager to give loans to farmers to cultivate more cassava farms.
Segun Adewumi, president, Nigerian Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), stated this in Lagos, saying “commercial banks are now falling over themselves to give us loans because the market for cassava is now guaranteed.”
This is a new and positive development, as some months ago, Adewumi lamented banks’ apathy at giving loans to cassava farmers. The reason banks gave then was that the market for cassava was not adequate. But with the launch of bread and other confectioneries baked with 20 percent cassava flour, the situation has taken a new turn for the better.
The cassava flour inclusion policy was resuscitated by the current administration over one year ago. This policy was initiated by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration but was mismanaged and not properly implemented due to vested interest against it. But under the leadership of Akinwunmi Adesina, current minister of agriculture, the initiative has been able to gain acceptance with the master bakers and supermarkets.
At the launch of the cassava bread and pastries at Park n’ Shop this month in Lagos, Simeon Abanulor, national chairman, Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, affirmed his association’s acceptance of the initiative, saying “this policy for the inclusion of 20 percent high quality cassava bread was initiated with the aim of helping Nigerian farmers to make more profit from
their produce, create more employment opportunities for Nigerians and reduce the huge amount spent on the importation of wheat.”
Abanulor therefore said, “I urge Nigerians to patronise cassava bread so that this policy will be a huge advantage to the economy at large.”
Solomon Kayode Onafowokan, group chairman of Park n’ Shop, thanked the minister of agriculture for giving the management the opportunity to exhibit their patriotic zeal to contribute to the development of rural farmers by this collaborative effort with the Federal Government at empowering the cassava farmers to expand.
He added: “As part of the efforts of the Federal Government to improve the living standards of the local farmers and create more employment in the agricultural sector, the Federal Government, through the ministry of agriculture, explored the possibility of making bread out of cassava. It was experimented and found out that, with 80 percent of wheat flour and 20 percent of cassava flour, bread and other baked products good for consumption can be made. Hence, the ministry of agriculture approached many bakers, including Spar/Park n’ Shop.”
As a result, the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) has already agreed to make available N2.3 billion facilities to cassava farmers. The facility is at 8 percent interest rate and is expected to be fully repaid in 24 months. According to Adewumi, about 50,000 farmers have already accessed facilities worth N205,000, each to step up cassava production, saying “our target is to ensure 1 million farmers are able to access credit facilities.”
He also said that there was plan to increase the inclusion of cassava flour in bread to 40 percent. The association is also currently assisting youths to invest in agriculture through easier access to land.