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Competitiveness of sweet potato puree in bread amid food inflation

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
19 July 2021   |   3:04 am
Reducing cost and maintaining a reasonable level of profitability requires creativity, research, and development of new products, raw material, and import substitution on the part of industrialists.

Sweet potato-included bread

‘Cassava flour now N20,000, uncompetitive in bread’

Reducing cost and maintaining a reasonable level of profitability requires creativity, research and development of new products, raw materials and import substitution on the part of industrialists.

The necessity has, therefore, compelled master bakers to adopt orange flesh sweet potato puree in wheat bread and other confectioneries to reduce cost and maximise the micronutrients of the crop.

General Manager, Sano Foods Limited, Solomon Ojeleye, recently listed the nutritional benefits of OFSP puree to include “beta-carotene and fibre, with high nutritional value in Vitamin-A for eye health, Vitamin B6 for healthy metabolism and nervous system, Vitamin C for immune health and Vitamin D which plays an important role in carrying out vital functions in the body system.”

Stating the economic case for the inclusion of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) puree in bread and other confectioneries, Ojeleye said: “The OFSP inclusion will reduce the country’s yearly wheat importation and conserve foreign reserves.”

Competitiveness of potato puree
Analytics of sweet potato puree in bread shows that a kilogramme of wheat is currently N300 or more depending on bulk or retail buying, but a kilogramme of OFSP puree is N200. Hence, bread bakers and confectioners making cakes, doughnuts and meat pie, among others, tend to reduce the cost of production by N100 on every kilogramme of OFSP puree used with wheat flour.

To every 40-kg bag of wheat flour, 10-kg OFSP can be added at 20 per cent and the cost reduction implication is N1000 minimum.

Again, because OFSP is sweet, sugar usage in bread is reduced by five per cent, according to experimental studies at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO). To a large-scale bakery, the percentage translates into a huge profit margin that might keep the business afloat.

On production of the potato, Nigerian arable land is suitable for production and an average of 10 metric tonnes are produced per hectare.

The average world yield of sweet potatoes is about 14 tonnes per hectare. Under subsistence conditions in many areas of the tropics, the average sweet potato yield is about six metric tonnes/hectare, far below the 20–26 metric tonnes/hectare obtained in China, Japan, and the United States, where improved varieties, fertiliser application and cultural management have been introduced.

Wheat is dominantly imported, as Nigeria produces less than five per cent of wheat consumed because of environmental suitability.

It takes between three and four months for potatoes to mature. Hence, sweet potatoes can also be planted three times in a year, especially if complemented with irrigation facilities. Without irrigation, two crops of production are assured in the North-Central, South-West, South-South and South-East ecological zones.

Cheaper than cassava flour inclusion
Experts have said sweet potato puree is more competitive than cassava flour inclusion or full wheat flour usage in confectionaries.

It takes a minimum of 12 months to produce cassava, while the potato is produced within four months. Cost of weeding, herbicides and labour on one hectare of cassava farm is times two to three of the potato farms. Again, cassava and sweet potato yield almost the same tonnes per hectare despite the difference in maturation and cost of production.

On production average in Nigeria, sweet potato yields 10 to 18 metric tonnes per hectare, while cassava yields between 12 and 20 metric tonnes depending on varieties, inputs, good practices, plant population and weed management.

Multiple demands for cassava for ethanol, flour, edible starch, garri and fufu, among others, make the supply inadequate and the cost of procurement uneconomical.

This has largely accounted for the failure of the ‘cassava bread’ initiative of the Federal Government since the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration as part of the efforts to industrialise cassava and eradicate the cyclic gluts associated with its production then.

To produce one hectare of cassava, buy stems, prepare the land, procure fertiliser, for weed management and harvest will cost a minimum of N60,000 per hectare in 12 months, according to a tractor hire entrepreneur, David Ayodele.

Whereas, one hectare of a potato farm in three months would cost less than N35,000; the cost of vines and other inputs are cheaper and the time of maturation is faster than in cassava production.

A bag of High-Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) hovers around N20,000, making it more expensive than wheat and of no economic significance to substitute in wheat bread or confectioneries.

An industrial cassava processor, Kolawole Adeniji, who is the Managing Director of Niji Foods, said: “A 50-kg bag of cassava flour is N20,000. Insecurity, cost of inputs, expensive land preparation and processing have made it uncompetitive to include cassava flour in bread.”

He said most cassava farms had been overrun by herders’ cattle and fear of kidnapping had affected the tempo of commercial operations.

Based on the economics of production, orange-fleshed sweet potato puree appears more economical to substitute by 20 per cent wheat flour in bread and confectioneries.

Hence, the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN), a couple of weeks ago, endorsed the inclusion of the puree in bread production as part of its ongoing efforts to cut the cost of bread production and remain in business.

Speaking during a demonstration of inclusion, the National Secretary of the association, Jude Okafor, said: “This is a very successful demonstration. We are happy with the outcome and the national body of AMBCN is fully in support of this new initiative. Our aim now is to ensure that the implementation cuts across all states for the benefit of all Nigerians.”

Effects on production, poverty alleviation and household income
As demand for the puree is likely to surge, production of the potato must respond ahead of the impending demand if the inclusion is to be sustainable.

And analysts say the rising demand for puree in bread and other confectioneries if managed properly, is a catalyst for higher production of the root crop, as farmers are assured of a ready market for their produce.

Again, household income, adequate nutrition, poverty alleviation and minimising hunger might receive a boost along the value chains of OFSP production and confectionery industry.

MEANWHILE, 600 farmers are to benefit from the Federal Government’s potato value chain programme in Niger State, according to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said that 600 potato farmers in Niger would benefit from its potato value chain development programme (VCDP) for the 2021 farming season.

Desk Officer, Potato VCDP, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Abuja, Adegoke Adedamola, disclosed recently in Minna while inaugurating this year’s distribution of agricultural inputs to potato farmers.

“We have 600 potato farmers from Niger who will benefit from this gesture. The farmers will get two types of improved varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potato for cultivation,” he said.

Adedamola explained that 12,000 bundles of potato stem cuttings would be distributed equally to farmers, both male and female.

“This will ensure that 300 female farmers and 300 male farmers benefit from the arrangement,” he said.

The official said the measure was to support the adoption of Vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes, which would help build people’s immune systems in the country.

He further said that potato flour, a product of the potato value chain, could be used to bake cake, bread and bean cake and make juice, among others.

Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the state, Ahmadu Zegi, advised the farmers to utilise the inputs to increase food production in the state and the country at large.

However, the National President, Potato Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (PFAN), Mr Daniel Okafor, who noticed some rotten and incomplete potato stems in some bags, urged the ministry to work with the contractor to replace them.

Okafor said timely replacement of the rotten and incomplete potato stems would enable the farmers to get the required yield.

The farmers were trained on how to preserve potato cuttings after harvest and planting, processing and marketing of the commodity.