WorldStage Newsonline-- The government of Ekiti State, said it has demonstrated readiness to promote the cassava bread initiative of the Federal Government by supporting the efforts of UTC, a Lagos-based private confectionery company, in mobilising the master bakers in the state for commercial production.
The State Government has gone ahead to launch its own cassava bread, a version of what was done in the presidential villa earlier in the year, according to a release from Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Agriculture.
During the launching ceremony at the Government House, Ado-Ekiti, the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, expressed excitement that this is “coming at a time when the policy thrust of this administration on commercial agriculture is taking a firm root and indeed turning to a manifest reality.”
Governor Fayemi described this as a ‘dream come true,’ declaring that, “as we launch this Initiative today, Ekiti State has become the first State in the federation to tap into the many economic and nutritional advantages of Cassava Bread after the recent launch by the Federal Government.”
According to the governor, “in the first place, we believe that the consumption of cassava bread is healthy as it reduces, to large extent, the injurious content which the white bread poses to certain categories of consumers particularly those with diabetes-related cases.”
The governor noted that, “since the initiative is to make cassava account for 40 per cent of the flour content of bread production in Nigeria, this, no doubt, is a great boost to cassava production on our farms.
“Our once disillusioned farmers can now heave a sigh of relief as returns on their investment on the farm would become greatly encouraging.”
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akin Adesina, described the action of Ekiti State as “another giant stride forward in our quest as a country to free ourselves from the shackles of food importation.”
According to him, “we spend over 10 billion naira importing basic food items such as wheat, rice, fish and sugar every year. As we import food, we are simply making our economy weaker. We are exporting jobs, instead of creating jobs at home. We are making the farmers of food exporting countries richer, while our own farmers are poorer for lack of markets. While the young graduates of food exporting countries get jobs, Nigerian young graduates roam the streets.”
The minister stated, “We spend 635 billion naira importing wheat. Our wheat import is growing at the rate of 13 per cent annually. By 2020 it is estimated that, at this growth rate, Nigeria's annual wheat imports will hit 17 million MT, or the entire wheat exports of Canada, the third largest wheat producer in the world. As we do, we will be shattering the hopes of our farmers in Nigeria who produce crops that can substitute for wheat in bread.”
Rein Adedayo Bodunrin, Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, noted that the training of master bakers is aimed at ensuring a full supply chain of the cassava industry to provide high quality bread on the table for Ekiti citizens.
“It is on this note that the state government, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and UTC have agreed to demonstrate and launch this initiative in Ekiti State. The idea is to train our bakers in modern baking business in line with the global trend of industrial development.
He described Ekiti as an agrarian state where the raw material (cassava) to sustain the development is always available.
Among the expected benefits that would be derived from cassava flour in bread making, Bodunrin explained, are increase in the production of cassava, increase in the consumption of cassava, reduction in rural-urban migration and capital flight, employment opportunities for our youths, reduction in the importation and over-dependence on wheat flour Governor Fayemi alluded to the “eight point agenda” of his administration, saying that “20,000 jobs are to be created by the year 2014 through commercial agriculture.”
He said that the cassava breads “initiative is a right step in this direction,” adding that, “of great importance is the clear capacity of the initiative to ignite industrial development which would invariably expand economic activities and create jobs for our teeming populace.”
He expressed optimism, therefore, that “with this development, our desire to make Ekiti State an industrial corridor for the agro allied sector of the national economy is a done deal. This will no doubt have a multiplier effect on the state economy. It should therefore be seen that this singular effort would deal a further blow on poverty structure in our land as another step to put the monster to flight in Ekiti State.”
He called on “all farmers to take a full advantage of this opportunity to change their socio-economic status.”
Although, “traditionally, bread is made from wheat,” according to the minister of agriculture, “we have demonstrated in Nigeria that cassava flour is a very good and healthier substitute for wheat flour in bread making.”
He reiterated that “the statements made by supporters of wheat flour that cassava consumption is not good for those with diabetes is wholesomely untrue, scientifically baseless and is a deliberate attempt to misinform Nigerians.”
As he said, “what the supporters of wheat flour and wheat importation do not want Nigerians to know is there is actually a way to measure how quickly sugar is released into the body from consuming any food item,” referred to as “the glycaemic index.”
He compared cassava flour with wheat-based bread, saying that the glycaemic index for French bread, popularly called ‘baguette,’ is 95, corn flakes as 82, the popular English Muffins as 77, the wheat flour bread as 71, all on the high side, and that only 100 per cent whole wheat bread (with the husk and the bran intact) has a glycaemic index of 51, “which is close to that of cassava flour in Nigeria at 59.”
“It means that cassava flour is healthier than wheat flour, French bread, English Muffins and cornflakes,” he enthused, stressing that, “by including cassava flour in bread, we will be improving the health benefit of the bread we eat, since the lower level of glycaemic index in cassava flour will help to reduce the high level of glycaemic index in wheat flour.”
The minister praised the efforts of UTC, led by the Managing Director, Mrs. Foluso Olaniyan, who, according to him, “led the way in commercialising the inclusion of 20 per cent high quality cassava flour in bread. He added that “cassava bread is 60 per cent cheaper, more nutritious and healthier than 100 per cent white wheat flour bread.”
Mrs. Olaniyan, however, declined to comment, saying rather that the exercise has been a success.
According to the minister, “the world is noticing. But Nigerians are noticing even more. It is not just about cassava bread. UTC's cassava bread, pastries, meat wraps, all from cassava flour, are on the market.”
At the national scale, he reasoned, “we are triggering an industrial revolution based on cassava. As other countries in Africa want to embrace cassava bread and reduce their imports of wheat, Nigeria is well positioned to become the leader. We can export cassava flour for bread to other countries. We are already exporting cassava chips to China, which will earn our farmers and processors 136 million US dollars.”
He recalled how, recently top delegations from the White House, “ate the cassava bread and were surprised at the great taste” and the “low level of gluten.”
He added that the former Prime Minister of UK, Tony Blair, also “ate the cassava bread at the Villa and remarked that it was great bread,” while “the President of Malawi ate the cassava bread and remarked that it was very good bread, and, today, Malawi has approached Nigeria to help her produce cassava bread.”
Dr. Adesina advised that “we must encourage domestic substitution for wheat,” describing it as “a matter of national security.” He said the “US is experiencing its worst drought in 100 years. Some 48 states in the US, majority wheat growing states, are recording very poor wheat crop. The price of wheat will rise by 50 per cent. This means that Nigeria is importing inflation and that makes our economy vulnerable. But cassava is drought tolerant, so it can better secure our food supply than wheat.”
In support of this, Governor Fayemi promised that his government “will aggressively drive this project for our people particularly the army of young farmers to maximise its full advantages. I also like to emphasise that necessary support will be provided to make the Initiative a huge success. As a matter of fact, necessary organs of government have been mobilized in this regard.”
He encouraged the “bakers who are major stakeholders in this enterprise to begin to look inwards for the raw materials (cassava) that are in large and commercial quantity in Ekiti for their trade to make the cassava bread initiative achieve its desired result.”
He assured the people that “that this initiative would be nurtured to an unmitigated success.” The slogan that first caught the attention of the minister was JFK 1:1: "from this day forth, thou shall only eat cassava bread," a statement that was tagged the eleventh commandment in Ekiti.
As cassava bread expands, observed the minister, “several of the 156 SMEs producing cassava flour, which had closed down before when flour mills stopped buying their flour few years ago, are now back in business. Ask Thai Farms. At the start of this administration, Thai farms, the largest producer of High Quality Cassava Flour was within three weeks of shutting down. Today, they work 24 hours per day, six days a week, to meet rising demand for cassava flour by corporate bakers.”
He disclosed that “six of those SMEs for upgrade are in Ekiti State and government is upgrading their facilities so they can produce more cassava flour, promising that their fortunes will soon change.”
Dr. Adesina explained that the federal government is building Nigeria’s “industrial capacity to produce enough cassava flour” and “has also facilitated the access to finance to import 18 large scale high quality cassava flour plants from China, to produce 1.3 million MT of cassava flour per year.”
This, he said, “will make Nigeria the largest producer of cassava flour in the world. We will have all the cassava flour we need to further our cassava substitution efforts in bread and confectioneries.”
He declared that Ekiti State has been allocated one of these large scale cassava plants, with capacity of 240 MT per day, promising that “it will be supported by an outgrower farm network and farmers provided with mechanisation, finance and farm inputs.”
He acknowledged the need to support our master bakers in order to get the cassava bread to the masses. He said they need access to new equipment, finance and training, which prompted President Jonathan to approve the establishment of the Cassava Bread Development Fund, a fund, which comes from the levy on wheat and wheat flour, to support training of the master bakers in cassava bread production while providing subsidised finance to allow them to invest in new rotary ovens, chillers and mixers.
He talked about the fiscal policies of the federal government towards accelerating the development of the cassava bread and cassava industry, announcing that government has also cut the levy on enzymes needed for cassava bread, from 10 per cent to zero per cent and initiated moves to get the enzymes manufactured locally.
“Two private sector companies are already working with the manufacturer of the cassava enzyme improvers in South Africa, and this will create a new industry in Nigeria, which will further create jobs.”
The Federal Government, he added, is facilitating the importation of 700 compact mills, which will decentralise private sector milling of wheat and mixing and production of premix composite cassava flour, to be sold directly to master bakers and households. This will standardise the production of cassava flour and make it available in every nook and corner of Nigeria, and reduce the monopoly of the flour milling industry. These compact mills will be sold to young graduates and entrepreneurs, to create a new class of businesses called 'compact millers'.
The master bakers, according to the minister, “are being provided with the starter packs for High quality cassava flour, including enzymes which are provided by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.”
He acknowledged that the training of the master bakers by UTC went extremely well and that Ekiti State was “the first state to achieve such a feat” but added that “what we are witnessing in Ekiti State will be replicated across the nation as “plans are underway by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to continue to partner with state governments in the training of master bakers and launching of cassava bread across all the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory.
He promised that starter packs will be provided for master bakers in every state to kick-off the commercialisation of the cassava bread by more than 400,000 master bakers across the country.”
He appealed to Nigerians to “patronise the products of our farmers,” to “eat what we grow,” concluding that, “only then will we create massive number of jobs for our youth and strengthen our economy.