With over $6 billion spent annually on the importation of wheat, the director general of Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Prof. Gloria Elemo, has said Nigeria can save up to N127 billion in foreign exchange through the adoption of cassava bread.
In an interview in Lagos, she said much more foreign exchange can be saved with full substitution of wheat flour for bread with cassava flour as the N127 billon will be saved with only 20 per cent substitution.
Elemo noted that this figure will, however, be N63.5 billion at 10 per cent substitution. “Again, no matter how you look at it, whether in the short term or in the long term, bread is going to be cheaper and affordable through inclusion of cassava flour. Prices of bread could be reduced by 20-45 percent at 20 per cent inclusion in the long term, if policy adopted.
She went on: “We have carried out consumers’ acceptability studies on cassava bread produced at various levels of inclusion of high quality cassava flour and the response is very encouraging. But also, one may not rule out some resistance from some quarters due to reluctance to change but change is one thing that is inevitable”.
Dr. Elemo stressed that some have actually said that cassava bread would cause diabetes or aggravate diabetic condition but as scientists, “we have been able to debunk this through Glycemic Index (GI) studies using human samples.
“The subjects consumed the cassava bread and we monitored the effect on the blood glucose. Interestingly, at 20 per cent inclusion, even at 10 per cent inclusion, there has been a slight drop in the GI for both bread than it is with bread baked with 100 per cent wheat flour. So there is no threat and it is not the cause of diabetes. Rather, I will even say it is better to use it for management of diabetes. Cassava bread is safe just like wheat bread for human consumption”, she added.
She maintained that it would get to a time when the nation would have more than enough cassava to export. “Presently, there are demands in the export market for cassava but because it is out food security crop we are using it extensively for foods like garri, fufu, so it is not easy to meet export demand. But by the time the value chain is pulled, there will be need for us to increase production. A country like China is in high demand for our cassava”, she added.
The institute therefore promised to train more entrepreneurs on its research and development, saying this would in a way reduce the importation of items that can be produced here.