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Wheat: Stakeholders chide government for abandoning cassava bread initiative

By Joke Falaju, Abuja
03 August 2022   |   2:42 am
Amidst Russia-Ukraine war and its ripple effects on increasing prices of wheat flour in Nigeria, stakeholders in the agricultural sector have chided the government for abandoning the Cassava Bread initiative.

Amidst Russia-Ukraine war and its ripple effects on increasing prices of wheat flour in Nigeria, stakeholders in the agricultural sector have chided the government for abandoning the Cassava Bread initiative.

The initiative targeted 40 per cent inclusion of composite cassava flour in bread production to reduce Nigeria’s import bill on wheat and also help grow the cassava value chain.

To ensure the realisation of its goal, the Federal Government had released N10 billion in 2011 for cassava bread development fund and to support research and development efforts on cassava bread, training of master bakers, support for master bakers in the acquisition of new equipment for production and the fund was to be generated from import tariff on wheat.

A retired Deputy Director, Root and Tuber Crops, FMARD, Abuja, Olusegun Ayeni while speaking with The Guardian lamented that it was unfortunate that six years down the lane, no one talks about cassava bread and the CBN is trying to look for alternatives to bridge the supply gap.

He said the former Minister had established a cassava bread development fund domiciled at the Ministry of Finance to be funded from the 15 per cent of levy from wheat import, adding that the Composite Bread bill for an Act was also sent to the National assembly alongside other bills.

He recalled that as a member of the committee on the High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) in bread, several meetings and memos were sent to the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh when he took over from Adesina on why the initiative should not be allowed to fail but unfortunately the baby and the water were thrown away.

On what the government can do to assuage the current downturn in wheat production, Ayeni said the document establishing the bread initiative needs to be studied and strengthened, adding that the government needs to revitalise the Cassava Bread Development Fund where a 15 per cent levy on wheat import goes into the account.

He also stressed that each region/state that has comparative advantage either in cassava, sorghum and potatoes, especially sweet and orange fleshed sweet potato should be encouraged to key in into the programme, saying state governments should be able to harness the policy to suit their economy, while the Federal Government should drive the policy.

He also stressed the need for all stakeholders involved including Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, National Cassava Growers Association, Flour millers, Master Bakers, among others to work together such that processors and master bakers will be grouped to work with the BOI, while farmers can again be brought in with well articulated memorandum of understanding to work with BOA.