In the face of increasing dollar against Naira, which has impacted on food cost, the African Centre for Food, Agriculture and Sustainable development Afri-CASD has called on the Federal Government to revisit the cassava bread policy.
The Centre said the decision would boost cassava production and minimise cost of importing wheat flour and other commodities used by bakers. Addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, the Executive Director, Afri-CASD, Mr Bamidele Adanikin said it is no more news that the hike in dollar is already taking its toll on the prices of goods and services in the country.
According to him, the immediate past administration invested huge sum to acquire about 18 large scale High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) processing plants from China, for the production of the flour. He said the flour produce was mixed with wheat flour by bakers and confectioners in the right proportion to produce the cassava bread. According to him, in a time where the country is trying to prioritise agriculture, there should be policies that would promote continuity especially those that which are pro-masses.
Afri-CASD recalled that the erstwhile Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina was optimistic that the scaling up of cassava supply would ensure a gradual replacement of wheat flour in bread by 50 per cent within the next three to five years. According to him, the introduced cassava bread, which has 10 per cent inclusion of cassava flour, was already available in shops across the country.
Adanikin revealed that the Federal Government as at then, provided over N9 billion under the Cassava Bread Fund to enable the production chain scale up to the target. As a result, the cassava inclusion in bread and other confectionery products at then, had led to a decline in wheat importation by five per cent, from 4.2 million metric tonnes to 3.7 million metric tonnes.
However, he urged the new administration to continue with the Cassava bread policy implementation to reduce imports and boost the nation’s economy. He stated that in some parts of the country, the prices of bread for instance has gone up due to new import rate. His words: “the new government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari should build on the agricultural policy of the erstwhile administration and make it better especially on reducing food imports and encouraging local production.
“We don’t know about other policies, but as farmers agriculture is capable of reviving our economy and ensuring that agriculture takes its rightful place among other sectors. “You see, we are in a time where Naira is on free fall, which means that the cost of importation will keep rising.
At this critical time, it is important for all stakeholders to promote local contents and discourage imports at all cost. “So we appeal to the Federal Government to promote Cassava bread for benefit of the farmers and the entire public. It was reported that government can save about N240 billion from the substitution, so I wonder why we are yet to reignite the policy.”