With uncertainty surrounding the unexpected increase in baking materials, especially flour, over the war between Russia and Ukraine, a former United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Representative in Nigeria on Agric Exports and Trade, Dr. John Isemede, has disclosed it was time to scale up the inclusion of between 20 and 50 per cent cassava starch in bread production in Nigeria. Isemede, who is also a former Director-General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), stated that Nigeria 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 as high as N1,000 should the bakers continue the production without the necessary government intervention. Besides, the cassava bread flour inclusion policy of the Federal Government was a laudable initiative meant to develop the usage of local raw materials in the manufacturing of bread.
Isemede explained that Nigeria produced 40 per cent of the total world’s cassava, saying that since it had a comparative advantage in cassava production, there is an urgent need to bring back cassava starch and wheat bread nationwide to save Nigerians paying through their nose for bread. According to him, the time has come and a challenge to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), 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.
The former director-general of NACCIMA explained that the ongoing war in Ukraine was a wake-up call for Nigeria and the present administration to embark on backward integration in finding a lasting solution to the looming food crisis in the country. 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.
Isemede said: “The focus is the war in Russia and Ukraine – effects on food prices in Nigeria, and Nigerians have to know that wheat is not 100 per cent substitute for cassava, but, we can take three lessons from our mistakes of the past to save the situation.”