The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has pleged to support Nigeria to realise the 40 per cent Cassava Flour Inclusion in Bread Initiative.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, said on Sunday in Abuja that he had held intensive discussion on the importance initiative with the IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze during the 35th session of the IFAD Governing Council in February in Rome ..
Adesina said that IFAD had promised to assist Nigeria to secure a four-million-dollar grant for a joint training programme of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on the cassava initiative.
He said that the grant had become imperative to enable the IITA to provide vital support to the initiative, especially in the areas of further research, modern technology, training and demonstration for bakers across the country.
He said government was also negotiating with other institutions to obtain the required grant.
Adesina said the Federal Government was exploring various strategies for the smooth implementation of the initiative.
To this end, he said that a technical group comprising nutritionists, food scientists, researchers, master bakers and flour millers had been set up to standardise the recipe.
“The Ministry has just finalised a plan with IITA for massive training of all the small bakers that make up more than 80 per cent of the bakers in the country.
According to him, master bakers have pledged to ensure that cassava bread reached the market on a large scale as soon as the required flour was available.
Adesina said that an international organisation had also completed the audit of 137 small and medium scale enterprises involved in processing flour.
He said the audit was aimed at upgrading and empowering moribund enterprises to return to business.
According to Adesina, some countries have indicated interest to key into the 40 per cent composite cassava flour initiative.
“After my presentation at the IFAD session, several Ministers of Agriculture from a number of countries, including Ghana, Cote d’ivoire, and Kenya, approached me to say they will go into the cassava flour initiative in their various countries.”
He noted that Nigeria was not only focusing on the domestic market for the initiative, but would also explore export.
Adesina said that the government had concluded an agreement with the Chinese government for the acquisition of 18 high quality cassava flour processing plants that would process 1.3 million tonnes of the commodity.
He said government would encourage the acquisition of mills by the private sector, by allowing them access low interest concessionary financing, with a repayment period of 10 years to 20 years and at 2.5 per cent interest rate.
Adesina added that under the initiative, cassava production would be expanded from the present 34 million tonnes to 51 million tonnes by 2015 by doubling the yields from 12.5 tonnes per hectare to 25 tonnes per hectare.
“If well implemented, it will create jobs for over 1.3 million Nigerians annually as more than 1.7 million tonnes of cassava will be required to produce 400,000 tonnes of 10 per cent composite cassava flour.
“The import bill of N63 billion annually on wheat will be used on meaningful projects.”