By CHIKA IZUORA,
A fresh approach toward utilisation of Cassava and Sorghum flour in bread production has been estimated to save Nigeria as much as $3.5billion every year.
The initiative aims at achieving 20 per cent Cassava flour inclusion in bread and it is projected that if the objective is achieved more Cassava growers would empowered as the project would scale up domestic Cassava flour processing to the tune of about 1.2 million metric tons yearly. Also, the project will create 3 million jobs for Nigerians.
Nigeria spends about $6 billion annually to import wheat, according to the director,
Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, Prof. Ibrahim Umar-Abubakar.
Umar-Abubakar said that Nigeria produced only three per cent of wheat it consumed, while the remaining 97 per cent was being imported and that the country had the capacity to produce enough quantity of wheat needed for local processing and consumption.
Most bread consumed in the country is made from 100 per cent whole-wheat flour or mixture of whole-wheat flour and white flour.
However, following the initial set back of the programme stemming from reluctance of Flour Millers to add 20 per cent Cassava flour to wheat flour, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, FIIRO, is pushing for a legislation to compel Flour Millers to key into the initiative.
The Director General of FIIRO, Professor Gloria Elemo told the Leadership that the initiative earned presidential endorsement in 2004, when the then president Olusegun Obasanjo visited the Institute.
Along the way after Obasanjo left office, the level of support began to wane coupled with consumer apathy toward Cassava consumption, she said.
Also, the initiative suffered another challenge in the area of supply of High Quality Cassava Flour, HQCF, to the Flour Millers, and government reverted to 5 per cent from 10 per cent inclusion when it was obvious that the Flour Millers cannot get enough supply from processors to meet the earlier target of 10 per cent inclusion.
She disclosed that in 2007, there was a temporary abandonment of the Cassava inclusion policy forcing HQCF factories to shut down, but many have started opening shop due to increased agitation from stakeholders.
The director-general also said that currently a high level lobbying is being canvassed to facilitate the passage of the “Local Content In Milling Industry Bill” which aims at giving the initiative a legal backing.
LEADERSHIP gathered that an earlier Bill exclusively seeking 20 per cent Cassava flour inclusion in bread suffered a major setback because it did not recognise the value addition from other components in Rice, Potato, Surghum and Millet.
She explained that the current Bill when passed will create opportunities for farmers who grow Rice, Millet and Potatoes in the north and Cassava growers in the southwest and southeast.
She said that government should promote and encourage simultaneous development of a crop comparative advantage in the north like Sorghum with Cassava as a way of addressing potential challenge that could result from the issue.
Prof. Elemo, also raised the concern about the little cloud of doubt on the consumption of Cassava bread even though all scientific evidences including sensory evaluation has proven that Cassava bread is safe for human consumption.
On the other critical quality issues like HQCF impurities such as sand, dustiness, odor, possible presence of cyanogenic glucosides among others, the DG said the Nigerian Cassava Processors and Marketers Association, NICAPMA, should rise to such challenge before the Bill is passed.
Elemo recommended that for the country to realise the potential benefits of the Cassava bread industry, there is need to adopt a standardised National Recipe for Cassava bread and confectioneries, give incentives to Flour Millers for possible plant re-configuration or acquisition of additional equipment if necessary as well as offer baker incentives to expand their bakeries and set up new ones.