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‘How orange-fleshed sweet potato can reduce bread price by 20%’

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
08 August 2022   |   2:43 am
Researchers and some master bakers have urged bakery and confectionery businesses to experiment and adopt the use of Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) to tame the rising price of bread in Nigeria.

Sweet potatoes

Researchers and some master bakers have urged bakery and confectionery businesses to experiment and adopt the use of Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) to tame the rising price of bread in Nigeria.

  
Price of 850gr loaf of bread was increased from N500 in 2021 to N600. In the first quarter of 2022, fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine and disruption of wheat supply, the price increased to N800 and in less than five months, increased to N1000 now, making it practically impossible for the poor in the country to consume the bread.
  
Experts also advocate the inclusion of cassava flour to reduce the cost of production and prices of the products.
 Master bakers in Nigeria had, last week, threatened to strike following abnormal rises in the price of wheat flour and other inputs in the production of bread. However, the threat was immediately followed by an increase in the price of bread from N800 to N1000.
  
While acknowledging that the increase in the price of wheat flour has continuously brought huge pressure on bakers, Head, Iresi Outstation, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Solomon Olufemi Afuape, said, orange-fleshed sweet potato is one of the best local contents to supplement wheat flour in bread.
  
He argued that the potato attains maturity within three months and depending on altitude, and has high beta-carotene (provitamin A) content, as high as above 10mg/100g FW, which implies additional nutritional advantage when added to bread.
 
Also, Sano Foods, a processor of OFSP puree, urged more bakers to embrace puree in bread production to save 20 per cent of their flour production cost.
  
Its spokesman, Mr. Mark Adejare, said that the OFSP puree has been endorsed by the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria.
  
“It has been proven over time that over 20 per cent inclusion of OFSP in bread is achievable and it also helps to save cost. Amidst the high cost of flour price, several bakeries have embraced the OFSP puree. This is a time where bakers should become more creative and explore the huge benefits OFSP puree offers,” he said.
  
He listed other benefits of adding the OFSP to bread production as a reduction in the volume of sugar, butter and sweetener, saying: “It also increases the shelf life of the bread.”
  
On the economics of production, the current price of OFSP per kg is N380, while the wheat price per kg is N610, and keeps rising. Adding the puree also reduces sugar use in bread by over five per cent, which further reduces the cost of production.
  
The Director and Head, Food Technology Department, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Dr (Mrs) Oluwatoyin Oluwole, explained to The Guardian that adding orange-fleshed sweet potato to wheat flour makes bread cheaper to produce, and would become more affordable if the potato is available.
  
She said it is either added as paste or flour, but emphasised that paste (puree) is better to retain a high level of vitamin A in the puree.
  
She said: “When we analyse it, 20 to 25 per cent substitution is good and product excellent. The government and Nigerian businessmen have not utilised research products developed by FIIRO and other institutes. We should look inward to substitute.”
  
A baker at Ikotun-Egbe, Mr Wole Toye, also disclosed that he is convinced it is economically viable and sustainable with, at least, a 10 per cent reduction in the cost of production, apart from a reduction of sugar cost, because the puree is naturally sweet, with vitamin A.
  
He too said Nigeria should utilize more local content to reduce dependence on the importation of raw materials and products, especially wheat.
  
A bakery specialist and consultant, Kehinde Ajayi, said OFSP puree-added product is very standard, and 20 per cent of inclusion is recommended. He said 20kg potato puree is added to 80kg wheat flour to obtain standard bread quality.
  
He added that there is a slight sugar reduction and every other input/recipe is constant.
  
The Secretary, Association of Master Bakers, Mr Jude Okafor, cassava flour policy is good and would help the bakery sector tremendously, but the policy is not implemented as designed.
  
He expressed the hope that the current efforts in the National Assembly would activate an act that would boost the implementation of the policy.
  
Okafor said added to cassava flour inclusion is the discovery OFSP puree, which he said is faster, cheaper and has the potential of greater production with two or more cycles in a year.
 
“I have done it and it works. We should explore as many local contents and much as possible to diversify the raw material base. Sorghum flour is another good material in bread,” he said.
 
A bag of wheat flour, he added, has been increased to N31,000 while the master bakers were protesting. He urged the government to destroy monopolistic systems that encourage abnormal increases in the prices of products.
  
Again, the baker said most of the bakeries in Nigeria were producing at about 30 per cent capacity, and this would compound the unemployment situation in the country if the trend continued.
  
On cassava flour in bread, while it is cheaper than wheat flour, it is not as affordable as potato puree.
  
Cassava roots mature in one year, while sweet potato matures in three to four months. OFSP is produced twice a year, making it faster to produce and cheaper than cassava flour in bread. He however admitted that multiple sources of substitutes would drastically reduce overdependence on wheat.