The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has initiated a policy of 20 per cent cassava flour inclusion for master bakers.
Experts said the promotion and adoption of 20 per cent cassava flour in bread and confectionery making would reduce wheat importation and address the high cost of the product in the market.
This is coming days after the master bakers had announced that there were plans to increase the price of bread across the country due to the high cost of wheat flour, a major ingredient for bread production.
Already the ministry has commenced training for bread bakers in the South-West on the use of high-quality cassava flour to reduce wheat importation.
It would be recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had started the idea of cassava bread in the country, which could not come to the limelight, even before the end of his tenure.
Experts, including Dr Victor Iyama, the president of the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), had said millers’ penchant for wheat in bread production continued to militate against the realisation of calls for cassava bread production in Nigeria.
Mr Iyama said in spite of the sustained campaigns by the association to discourage wheat importation, millers had remained adamant.
He said stakeholders still showed a lack of interest in the use of cassava flour for bread production.
Iyama noted that the campaign over the years had been for bakers to include only 10 per cent of cassava flour to their bread recipe to discourage the importation of wheat.
“Cassava bread is still on; however, most of the millers are not interested in it, especially because most of them are foreigners and are more interested in wheat.
“What we are asking them to do really is to add just 10 per cent cassava to their recipe. Nobody says it must be 100 per cent of cassava.
“There are some countries that are even doing 40 to 50 per cent of cassava,” he had said.
But some of the bakers debunked the insinuation that they would not want to include cassava flour in bread production.
Mr Mathew Alaba, a bread baker, wondered if cassava flour itself was not costlier than wheat flour.
“Because people could not farm cassava like before you discovered that the price of cassava flour is almost the same with that of wheat, if not more. A measure of cassava flour is over N400 now; how much is a measure of wheat flour? That is the problem,’’ he said.
But the federal government believes that with 20 per cent cassava inclusion, the country will save millions from wheat importation and a reduced cost of production for bakers.
Consequently, the regional director, of the FMARD, South-West, Mr Marcus Ogunbiyi, said the ministry had commenced training of master bakers on the need for cassava inclusion in their production.
Ogunbiyi noted that the use of cassava flour for bread production had been evolving through the promotion of high-quality cassava flour inclusive policy.
According to him, there are proven technologies that Nigeria should adopt to maximise 10 per cent inclusion of high-quality cassava flour in bread making and other confectioneries.
“This alone can give the country 300,000 tonnes of cassava flour annually. It can provide huge foreign exchange, create massive wealth among average Nigerians and eliminate hunger in the community,” he said.
Also speaking, a director in the Federal Department of Agriculture, Mrs Karima Babangida, said the policy was poised to build an agri-business ecosystem that would address the challenges in the agricultural sector in partnership with all stakeholders.
Babangida, represented by Mr Deola-Tayo Lord Banjou, the programme manager, Root and Tuber Expansion Programme, FMARD, added that the policy would achieve export substitution, job creation, economic diversification, as well as food and nutrition security.
She said the promotion and adoption of 10 per cent cassava flour in bread and confectionery making would reduce wheat importation.
“The federal government had continued to advocate more strategies as the training of bakers on the 10 per cent cassava inclusion policy to guarantee acceptability, market, sustainability across the country and addresses existing challenges.
“The impact is that consequent demand for cassava flour will have a positive multiplier effect on cassava value chain/industry and on the entire Nigerian economy.
“Master bakers will learn the skills and cascade down the training to other members to promote increased efficiency in food processing activities and increase cassava roots supply,” Babangida told newsmen at the training.