NIGERIA – Bakers across Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, are facing a hard time with the policy of 20 per cent inclusion of cassava in bread production was due to a lot of constraints.
Among the constraints listed by Jacob Adejorin, Chairman, Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, are poor awareness, short shelf life, substandard cassava flour, lack of training and equipment for production, among others, as the constraints.
He said the initiative by the Federal Government was good but it had been difficult to get quality cassava flour.
“For now, the only place you can get cassava is around Oyo State, and even there, not many people are aware of cassava bread, neither are the bakers trained in it.
“Until there is that high quality cassava flour, the ones we have around have very low shelf life.
“This means that the bread made with it does not last long, before it starts to go sour.
“I am aware that quality cassava flour is available in FIIRO, but how much of this is available?
“There is need to produce more of the flour,” he said.
In 2014, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture, said that Nigeria could save up to N200 billion from the inclusion of cassava flour in bread production.
To ensure the initiative sails through, the Federal Government earmarked 2.2 billion for the initiative, to be accessed through the Bank of Industry.
Gloria Elemo, Director-General, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), said the institute had trained several bakers and millers on cassava bread.
She also said the institute makes cassava bread and sells from its milling and baking department, but general awareness about the bread had been low.
But all bakers who spoke said they had yet to access the fund.
Femi Awobona, a member of the Cassava Millers Association, said that cassava millers needed sophisticated equipment for the processing of cassava flour, to meet the standard.
He said most of the equipment could only be found in FIIRO, and it was insufficient to meet the needs of the populace.
Awobona urged the new government to look into the value chain of growing and processing cassava, to ensure good quality.
Bode Oyegun, a bakery owner in Agege, said he had stopped making cassava bread because the quality of the flour was poor.
According to Oyegun, I started by including 10 per cent of cassava but I have stopped because the shelf life of the bread is too short for commercial purposes.
“After baking, the bread looks like fufu — the local cassava meal — because the quality of the flour we get is poor.
“We make all sorts of bread with sardine, coconut bread, and so on, so we cannot continue the use of such flour for such products.
“If we can get quality flour, I think the policy can come back to life.
“Many people are not even aware of it; if not, packaging of cassava flour would be a very lucrative business. When the government raised the awareness for cassava bread, we embraced it, but at a point, most of us stopped the production,” he said.
Another baker, Mrs Gladys John, urged the Federal Government to empower cassava growers and millers to produce quality cassava flour.
She said that she sometimes buys the cassava bread made by FIIRO, and her family loves it, but she doubts if most people knew about the development.