NIGERIA – The President, Association of Systems Management Consultants, Mazi Coleman Obasi, has said the Federal Government is losing so much by not implementing the cassava bread initiative.
The initiative was designed to achieve about 20 per cent cassava flour in bread.
He said if the government had implemented the policy, the country would have saved significant foreign exchange through the reduction in wheat imports.
He also said apart from creating jobs in the agric and agro-allied processing sectors, the cassava bread initiative would have spurred farmers to grow more cassava.
Obasi recalled that some years ago, the Federal Government, under former President Goodluck Jonathan, introduced the cassava bread initiative as part of its Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA).
He said the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, now President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, vigorously encouraged Nigerians and farmers to embrace the initiative because of its obvious benefits to the economy.
The Federal Government felt the initiative would encourage increased cultivation of cassava on commercial scale, drive down cost for bakers and save the nation huge foreign exchange by reducing 100 per cent importation of wheat, which was gulping N635 billion ($2.08b) yearly.
Also, the government through the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Oshodi, Lagos, envisaged that the cassava bread initiative, if fully developed and implemented, could generate over three million jobs to reduce unemployment in Nigeria, especially in the agriculture and agro-allied processing sectors.
The policy essentially targeted achieving 10 per cent cassava inclusion in a short term, 20 per cent in the medium term and ultimately, 40 per cent.
Obasi regretted that despite the initiative’s laudable objectives, the current administration has failed to follow it through despite the current emphasis on growing the non-oil export economy.
“I have never seen cassava bread to buy or eat,” he said, adding: “by now we should begin to see the impacts of the policy if the economic managers had implemented it.”
He said with the lack of political will to implement the cassava bread policy, “one should not be too eager to expect much from the current focus on making Nigeria self-reliant in production of other staple food crops such as rice”.
Obasi said if Nigeria must exit the economic recession, it must muster the necessary political will to implement the cassava bread initiative and other policies aimed at stimulating local production.