Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, yesterday, said Nigeria spends about N635 billion on wheat, wheat flour for use in bread, confectioneries and other foods.
Adenina stated this at the national stakeholders’ forum on cassava bread, in Abuja.
According to him, wheat which accounted for a small share of Nigerian food consumption in the 1960s, rose to 1,400,000 metric tones in 1980, 1,913,000 metric tones in 2,000 before climbing to all time high of 4,051,000 metric tones by 2010 and by 2011, Nigeria spent N635 billion on wheat imports.
The minister, who lamented the exploitation of Nigerian potentials in cassava produce, said such magnitude of wheat importation could no longer be sustainable, given that Nigeria is one of the largest suppliers of cassava produce.
He used the medium to announce Federal Government’s plan to float Cassava Bread Fund by the end of March noting that the move was in line with government’s plan to support the use of cassava flour substitution in bread production and to make cassava bread available to all across the country.
According to the minister, the Cassava Bread Fund apart from supporting bakers was established to enhance research and development efforts on cassava bread, training of master bakers and social marketing to boost demand for cassava bread.The fund which he said would be ready for access by bakers in April will be funded through the tariff on wheat flour.
“I am very pleased to let you know that the Cassava Bread Fund will be effectively operational with funds, by the end of this month. We will work closely with the national federation of bakers and cassava flour processors to quickly access these funds to support our efforts to get cassava bread to all parts of the country,” said the minister.
To further support cassava flour substitution in the country, Dr. Adesina said that government had put in place a number of fiscal policies which include: raising of tariff on wheat importation; elimination of import of enzymes for the production of cassava bread; imposition of zero duty on all equipments and machinery for production of cassava bread among others.
In furtherance of the government support, he stated that over 385 Master Bakers drawn from the six geo-political zones of the country had been trained by experts and were each given starter packs of 50kg bag of 20% blended cassava flour; 80% wheat flour and one kilogram enzyme improvers to enable them begin production of cassava bread.
As part of efforts to upgrade bakers capacity, the minister said 153 SMEs are currently been financed by government to enable them produce high quality cassava flour that would meet both local and export demands.
Following the drive to build a sustainable supply chain for the production of cassava bread and confectionaries in Nigeria, Adesina said Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through its Cassava Adding Value for Africa project, had provided a grant of $650,000 for activities to accelerate the production of cassava bread in Nigeria. The grant, he said would support training of master bakers and rendering technical support to SMEs.
The minister said Nigeria is blessed with cassava but had failed to exploit its potentials and challenged bakers to increase cassava content in their produce, insisting that the country can no longer afford to sustain its present volume of wheat flour , which he said rose from N78,000 in 1960 to N635 billion in 2011.
Earlier, the National President and Country Manager, Cassava: Adding Value for Africa, Prof. Lateef Oladimeji said the forum would strengthen their contributions to national food policy, saying that cassava bread when fully accepted by Nigerian bakers would not only create more jobs but would offer unique opportunity for income generation and sustained development.
While commending the federal government for the 20% cassava bread policy, Prof. Oladimeji appealed to the President to assent to their bill to enable them play a complimentary role in achieving the government agricultural transformation agenda.
In her position statement, the representative of UTC Nigeria Plc, Mrs. Folunsho Olaniyan said her company had complied with the 20 percent Cassava Bread policy of government, after 90 trials.
“UTC developed bread made with 20% cassava flour with seven days shelf life. This bread is dough enhanced with cassava improver and is cheaper than bread made from 100% wheat flout.
UTC has excellent training facilities and we are ready to assist the driver to support bakers in achieving 20% cassava inclusion bread in the remotest part of our rural environment in Nigeria,” she stated.