By Francis Akinnodi
With uncertainty surrounding the unexpected increase in baking materials, especially flour, over the war between Russia and Ukraine, economic experts have called for immediate inclusion of between 20 and 50 per cent cassava starch in bread production in Nigeria.
They stated that Nigerian government needed to revisit the abandoned 20 per cent cassava inclusion in wheat bread and all other flour-based products under the High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) initiative during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s era, to navigate the rise in bread prices in the country.
Already, the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria had given notice that the price of the smallest bread could go for as high as N1,000, should bakers continue the production without the necessary government’s intervention.
While speaking with The Hope, an economist, Dr. Timothy Awe explained that Nigeria produces 40 per cent of the total world’s cassava, saying that since it has comparative advantage in cassava production, there is urgent need to bring back cassava starch and wheat bread nationwide to save Nigerians paying through their noise for bread.
According to him, the time has come and a challenge to the federal government, the three universities of agriculture at the state levels, Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) to save the country from imminent hunger.
He pointed out that revisiting the cassava starch and wheat bread production would help the processors mop up the country’s large cassava crop in bread making.
Also, Chairman of the Ondo State chapter of the association, Alhaji Musibau Iyiola said the current strike is sequel to a series of daunting challenges confronting the bakery and catering industry in Nigeria without the desired proactive and prompt response by the government.
Iyiola noted that all efforts made by the association towards remedying them were rebuffed by the government and its agencies. Amongst the reasons listed for the strike include shortage of raw materials, increasing cost of materials, over taxation and levies.
Specifically, he noted that: “Since the ban on importation of flour into the country, no serious effort has been made for home-grown wheat as promised by the government and its relevant agency, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
“The Master Bakers have requested for palliative in form of soft loans or subsidy to bakers to enable them to produce quality and affordable quantity of bread for mass consumption, which was promised but not fulfilled
On the issue of the intervention fund, he stated that: “As we speak, bakers are not getting anything from it and we still contribute to the fund. If they cannot empower us with the fund that has accrued so far, then they should stop collecting it so that the money collected will be used to empower bakers nationwide. At least, it will reduce the prices of bread to a large extent.”
They noted that importation of food items that can be produced locally should be discouraged while mechanization of farm produce, processing boost and preservation with modern technology should be encouraged to drive the agriculture value chain.
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