Two giants in the flour milling industry in Nigeria met with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja. The meeting was the unveiling of the two brands of cassava-wheat composite flour now going into the market. It means that, going forward, branded cassava-wheat composite flour will feature in our bread. What is better referred to as Nigerian bread has made a debut, but our bakers can now buy the composite flour and bake straight without having to first go through the task of mixing cassava flour and wheat flour.
Nigeria has so much arable land, with lots of rainfall and two of the largest rivers in Africa, a high population and cheap labour. We must turn all this into our advantage and produce what we eat and eat what we produce. Using our population to eat imported foods is simply boosting the economies of other countries, spending scarce foreign exchange and exporting jobs.
Cassava bread is about patriotism. Every Nigerian must change. We must patronise the crops grown by Nigerian farmers and our local foods. We must process and add value to everything we produce. We must end decades of prodigal economics, where we leave crops produced by our farmers to rot, while we keep farmers in countries exporting food to Nigeria busy and happy.
Through the agricultural transformation agenda, Nigeria has added N 780 billion to the economy within the past three years and more will be achieved through addition of values in various commodities. A good example is the case of cassava. Cassava is now being turned into a more valuable crop for our farmers. Few weeks ago, scientists at Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, produced the largest cassava cake in the world, a feat that has placed Nigeria on the global stage, and demonstrated that our cassava is as good as wheat for baking cakes and confectionaries.
We have come a long way since Mr. President launched the composite flour cassava bread in the Federal Executive Council over two years ago. He made a bold statement that Nigeria will secure the livelihoods of our farmers by partially substituting imported wheat with cassava, a crop for which Nigeria is ranked number one in the world for production. He quickly followed up that announcement with the approval of a cassava bread fund to support farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises, including master bakers and processors all along the cassava bread value chain.
The coming of Flour Mills of Nigeria and Honeywell Group into the composite flour business is a big boost to the policy of the Jonathan-led government to save more foreign exchange and create more jobs in the agricultural sector. Cassava will cease to be treated as mere subsistence crop for household and village-level processing. Cassava has now become the raw material of choice for the burgeoning bread flour, sweetener, starch, and ethanol markets. With these strong growth markets, the teeming millions of our cassava farmers will have a market that will stabilise prices and provide strong incentives to invest in inputs and global best practices to increase their productivity and secure their livelihoods.
In addition to the launch of the cassava-wheat flour, I commissioned the equipment support for bakers. The equipment for mixing and baking flour will enable our bakers raise the bar of inclusion to 20 per cent and beyond. Before our very eyes, we are witnessing the fulfillment of Mr. President’s vision and courageous pronouncement, and the fruits of his support.
The launch and commissioning of flour and equipment respectively were the culmination of several interventions by my Ministry in building the cassava bread value chain. Only two months ago,” when the ministry secured, from Federal Executive Council, an approval for six medium-sized high quality cassava flour (HQCF) mills that will add 108,000 metric tons (MT) to national HQCF production. These are the first six of 15 mills that will be built over the next 24 months, raising HQCF production to over 200,000MT per annum and will provide sufficient HQCF to achieve 10 per cent cassava flour inclusion, universally, by all our wheat millers in Nigeria.
Moreover, we have upgraded 35 small mills from less than 1MT/day HQCF production to 3MT/day with support from the cassava bread fund. I personally opened the new Oamsal HQCF mill in Ayede Ekiti and will be commissioning many others in the next few weeks. All across the country, our bakers now have access to high quality cassava flour, and they are increasing the level of cassava flour inclusion in bread to 20 per cent.
Indeed, our bakers have been as enterprising and patriotic as our flour millers in our march to industrialisation of cassava. Currently, over 32 industrial and small bakeries, including major super markets such as Shoprite, Park & Shop, Zuma, Sweet Sensation, and several others are baking and selling hot and tasty cassava bread. Today, we are expanding the list of bakers who can produce cassava bread by commissioning equipment that will enable our bakers to achieve the same high quality bread when using composite flour. We have also trained over a 1,000 bakers on production of cassava bread, and continue to train another set of 4,000 bakers.
To make the cassava bread even cheaper, we have embarked on a major effort to raise the production of cassava through the establishment of large mechanised cassava farms. We are establishing a total of 5,300 ha of mechanised cassava farms at the locations of medium sized HQCF mills. We are also establishing a total of 29,500ha of mechanized cassava farms at locations of small and medium-sized HQCF mills. All these farms are being established with support from the cassava bread fund. The increased efficiency of primary production of cassava under the cassava bread initiative is already encouraging the establishment of new factories that add value to cassava.
Presently, there are at least ten new large scale factories, two for starch, two for sweeteners, three for ethanol, and three for dried chips that are being planned for commissioning in 2015. Such dynamism of private sector investment in cassava processing has never happened before in Nigeria’s history. Mechanised and highly productive cassava production is a magnet for industrial scale processing which we are now seeing in Nigeria. The industry is responding to the positive development in the cassava sector.
The launch of 10 per cent composite flour from these two pioneers – the Flour Mills of Nigeria and Honeywell, and the commissioning of baker equipment – are an evidence of Nigeria’s unstoppable march to industrialisation of our local food crops. We have crossed the Rubicon on our way to making Nigeria the world’s largest producer and processor of cassava – and there is no going back.
To support our patriotic HQCF processors, flour millers, our Master and Industrial bakers, we are at an advanced stage of the development of a composite flour policy, which calls for the use of 10 per cent cassava or sorghum flour in all bread produced in Nigeria by December 2016. When we started the cassava bread journey three years ago, we were faced with various obstacles and the challenges of establishing a strong seed system for a vegetatively propagated crop. But today we have surmounted all those obstacles. We have silenced the scare mongers by demonstrating that cassava bread is healthier than pure white wheat flour bread.
On behalf of Mr. President, I thank everyone for believing in Nigerian farmers. Today, we celebrate your tenacity and the determination to transform our great nation, Nigeria. I thank Oba Otudeko and John Coumantaros, Chairmen of Honeywell and Flour Mills of Nigeria respectively, for their support on the composite flour bread initiative and for taking the lead in realisation of the policy. I thank our cassava flour millers who have stayed the course in the face of hardship and resistance from the status quo. To our master and industrial bakers, who are the primary clients of the composite flour product, I salute your patriotism and courage.
I highly commend the strong and outstanding research and development support of our research institutes, especially Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the National Root Crops Research Institute and the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
The support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation towards this success has been strong and remarkable. The Bank of Agriculture and the Bank of Industry have played strategic roles in ensuring that the financing got to the beneficiaries.
Nigeria is rising. We will create wealth for our farmers. We will change the face of our rural areas. Our vast farm lands will be covered by thousands of hectares of prime cassava fields. Our unemployed youths will operate tractors, planters, and harvesters, on our cassava fields, in this brave new world of cassava as a food and modern industrial raw material. Now, let all the nooks and corners of Nigeria eat cassava bread and confectioneries, as you use the composite flour by the largest flour millers to bake bread and confectioneries.
Source: Leadership Newspaper