• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Processors call for revisit of cassava flour policy to reduce bread prices


Processors in Africa’s biggest economy have called on the federal government to revisit the cassava flour inclusion policy to drive down the cost of bread and help the country conserve FX amid scarcity.

The cassava processor made the call during a stakeholder’s engagement meeting to train 100 bakers on cassava flour inclusion in Lagos recently.

They noted that owing to the comparative advantage the country has in cassava production and its availability, presents cost-saving opportunities for bakers when adopted as it can help tackle the surging bread prices the country is currently experiencing.

According to them, the policy which was first initiated in 2021 failed due to millers unwillingness to adopt the policy and policy flip-flop by the government, noting that country’s in various climes are already adopting high-quality cassava flour and other close substitutes as an alternative to wheat.

“The cassava inclusion policy failed because there was no implementation and this is because the government focused on the millers to drive the initiative,” said Segun Ladele, president of Industrial Cassava Stakeholders Association of Nigeria (ICSAN).

According to him, despite being the largest producer of cassava globally, the country is yet to fully tap its potential, noting that the pressure from the Russia-Ukraine war on bread prices would have been avoided if the country had adopted the policy when it was first initiated.

He noted that 10 percent inclusion policy will save the country over N2billion annually on the importation of wheat.

“We are happy for the renewed interest by bakers and we hope that it is sustained,” he said.

He noted that the stakeholder’s workshop was organised to conduct a demonstration trial for bakers on the cassava–wheat inclusion flour.

Also speaking, Jummai Adamu, director-general of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO) said cassava is a major industrial crop that is vital in the country’s food security drive.

Adamu who was represented by Dele Oyeku, director of extension and linkage said that researchers at the institute over the years not only confirmed that High-Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) inclusion in wheat flour was safe, but its benefits were also outstanding.

She listed the benefits to include, economic benefits, wealth creation, job creation, conservation of FX, and growth of the country’s non-oil sector.

Read also: Surging wheat prices evoke ditched cassava policy

He noted that the legislation of the cassava flour inclusion policy in bread and confectionaries will help just the labour of all stakeholders across the cassava value chain.

“We hope that the current efforts in the legislation of wheat-cassava composite bread will sail through the National Assembly and be signed into law.”

Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with about 46 million metric tonnes and an average yield per hectare between 10.6 to 15 metric tonnes but has failed to take advantage of its cassava production.

The cassava inclusion policy first initiated in 2012 increased the country’s local cassava production and made Nigeria became the largest producing nation of the crop, it failed to take root amongst flour millers, as most of them were unable to get high-quality industrial-grade flour for use.

This was a result of the inadequate processing capacity to process fresh cassava tubers to high-quality graded flour for industrial use.

Owing to this, research institutions such as the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) in a combined effort released improved cassava varieties to farmers for high-quality cassava tubers, aiding the processing of high-quality flour in the country.

But despite the increase in the local production of high-quality cassava flour, millers were still reluctant to adopt the policy.

“When the policy was first initiated there was a problem around adoption by the millers and this is because of the low-quality cassava flour supplied by processors then,” said Oluwatoyin Oluwole, director and head of the food technology department, FIIRO.

“FIIRO was able to resolve the problem of quality by working closely with cassava processors to produce high-quality flour,” she noted. “But due to some undertone, millers still refused to adopt the inclusion policy and the policy failed,” she added.

She noted that the interest shown by bakers is a welcome development, saying that FIIRO has done a recipe manipulation that ensures that bakers do not need to change their equipment being used for 100 percent wheat flour when adopting the inclusion of cassava flour.

She added that the 10 percent cassava flour inclusion will help bakers increase their profit margins and remain in business.

“A 50kg bag of wheat cost about N34,000 now depending on the brand, while a bag of cassava cost N20,000.”