Using high quality cassava flour for inclusive economic growth
We have proven technologies and evidence-based facts that Nigeria should keep to maximum of 10 per cent inclusion of high quality cassava flour (HQCF) in wheat flour for bread making and other confectionaries. This alone can give the country 300,000 tonnes of cassava flour annually. It is more than enough for the industries.
The good news is that multinationals like Nestle are demanding HQCF for their Maggi cubes than starch. Those producing biscuits and noodles can use HQCF.
My Ph. D student, Dr Isaac Onigbogi, demonstrated the use of cassava starch and HQCF for noodles in Wheat Center, Oregon, the United States of America (USA). The viability was affirmed. There is no need of enzymes and there is no need to include above 10 per cent. We should think big but start small.
Nigerians have invested billions of naira in HQCF machinery since 2004 under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo when Chief Audu Ogbeh was the chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and still investing based on CTAP and Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) initiatives of the Federal Government.
Dr Akinumi Adesina, then Minister of Agriculture, deployed human and financial resources promoting 20 per cent HQCF inclusion in wheat flour for bread and other confectioneries. New players were wooed and they invested in the production. Since then, there has been no new support.
My team at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Integrated Cassava Project under Dr Alfref Dixon and Chief (Mrs) Adetunji (then Special Assistant to ex-President Obasanjo on Food Security) demonstrated its usage in 26 states of the federation with bakers.
The Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through Professor Andrew Westby of the Natural Resources Institute, the United Kingdom (UK), promoted the uptake of HQCF from 2008 till March 2019. I coordinated training programmes for bakers in selected states using the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), IITA and the Master Bakers Association as service providers. Chief Abunalor of Abia State was the national president of master bakers then.
The largest producer of HQCF is Premium Cassava Products (former Thai Farm), producing 60 tonnes per day. Psaltery Starch International will soon have another large plant for HQCF based on demands from Nestle and Unilever, who have perfected best procedures for HQCF use in wheat flour.
Other investors can emulate these factories. We have about 40 Bank of Industry-sponsored Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) and others that have closed down in the country. They need support to re-open and improve on their efficiency.
I commend Flour Mills of Nigeria for its strategic agro-industrial development. I charge other mills to emulate this fast-growing company and create jobs for Nigerians.
Recently, IITA-TAAT project sponsored by the African Development Bank commissioned my team at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria, to train some trainers in the use of HQCF for bread and other confectioneries in Togo. It was indeed a success and Togolese presidency applauded IITA as claimed by the Dr Adebayo Abass.
We will soon have another investment forum for cassava into starch, ethanol and HQCF in Abuja.
We have enough resources to promote our commodities as local contents in other industrial products.
We have learnt our lessons. We must encourage inclusive growth of our economic development through market demands. There is treasure in riding on our root and tuber crops like cassava for job creation and sustainable livelihoods of Nigerians. This is the time!
• Prof Lateef is the President, International Society for Tropical Root Crops and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development) of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria. He wrote this in response to an interview with Chief Audu Ogbeh, a former Minister of Agriculture, published recently by The Guardian.