As stakeholders seek bill on cassava flour inclusion

Late last year, the Federal Government announced the release of N10 billion for Cassava Bread Development Fund(CBDF) to further boost the cassava production and to support research and development efforts on cassava bread. Stakeholders are proposing a bill for mandatory 20% inclusion of high cassava flour or sorghum to wheat flour, JOHN OBA reports.

Even though, the Federal Government’s cassava bread project has not been fully embraced by Nigerians, the government and stakeholders in the project seems determined to see it through with the sponsoring of a bill for an act to provide for the mandatory 20% inclusion of high quality cassava flour or sorghum to wheat flour and its derivatives and the establishment of a special tax regime for the mixed wheat flour.

It could be recalled that as efforts continue to intensify efforts to make cassava bread a household staple, the federal government and the Bank of Agriculture(BOA), last year signed a N2.4 billion Memorandum of Understanding, to facility the processing of cassava flour for self-sufficiency in cassava bread production and consumption.

The bill which will mandate that cassava/sorghum development committee consisting of 15 different stakeholders to regulate the proceedings, prepare and publish the first national composite flour policy within six month of the commencement of the act and shall from time to time be responsible for the formulation and implementation, regulation and revision of the cassava flour inclusion policy be form.

The bill will make it mandatory for all makers of edible flour in Nigeria to ensure the 20% inclusion of the high quality cassava or sorghum flours in wheat flour produced in the country or imported.

It also mandates wheat importers to pay an import tariff of 15%, while it empowers the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to publish regulations for the proportion of cassava or sorghum flours in relation to wheat to be applied in the process of making edible flour.

The bill will also provide for a tax regime to provide incentives for the producers of mixed wheat and cassava flours and the recipients will be wheat importers who includes 10% cassava or sorghum flour, a 5% reduction in the tariff on imported wheat. While proposing a 10% reduction in corporate, personal income and value added tax (VAT) on mixed wheat and cassava.

Approved standard as provided by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) shall be strictly enforced at the point of flour production and effective monitoring for compliance shall be carried out by a task force, consisting of ministry of agriculture and an independent laboratory. Offender is liable to fine not less than N100 million or suspension of operation for a period of five years.

Addressing journalists at the meeting, the Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Martins Fregene, said the aim of the bill was to seek to add 20% of cassava or sorghum flour to bread. Adding that the ministry has being working with all stakeholders, along that value addition chain such as the bakers and have trained them in the production of  cassava bread. He said the bill would make it mandatory for cassava to be included in every single loaf of bread.

It could be recalled that last year, a total of 766 master and industry bakers were trained to produce cassava bread across the country. He assured that this year, the government is increasing that number to 5,000 bakers that would be trained on how to take cassava and wheat flours into bread.

“We had a trial test last week at Silver Spoon Temitope street Mushin in Lagos with all the wheat millers, where we baked 10 and 20% cassava bread and we had a consumer acceptance word and it was acceptable. Today, we have a 153 small HQCF mills in the country, we have another seven larger ones and we are supporting them.

“We are using the N100 billion cassava bread development fund from the wheat levels approved by the President to help the millers expand their factory from one tons to three tons a day while also using the fund to provide working capital for them. We are supporting 29500 farmers across the country to produce cassava with high productivity at lower production cost,” he said.

He further stated that the government has started mechanized cassava farming programme from the fund and 5,000 hectares of land have been cleared and would be established using mechanical planters so that the bigger mills will have access to reliable and cheap source or roots in a quantity they require.

He also revealed that the bill would ensure jobs creation in the sector and that the government is establishing 20 new medium size mills across the country at the location of the cassava farms.

The Managing Director, Thai farm international limited, Mr Louw Burger, commended the initiative, saying the bill has become necessary as much progress in the cassava flour market has not been what it should be.

He added: “I think the bill is good for Nigeria, it is good for our farmers and good for agriculture if it is well handled.”

“What this bill will do if well handled which is our concern, because we want a bill that is sensible, that will ensure the long term future of the industry, the effect will be that we have reliable market for our flours, which means we have to buy more cassava tubers, which means the farmers have a steady market and our gates are open seven days a week to farmers. These farmers bring cassava to us day and night.

“I tell the flour millers not to look at me as Louw Burgers, a South African man, but see about 2000 Nigerian farmers that we engaged, that’s who I am. So the bill has become very necessary because progress in the market to take up cassava flours have not been what it should be. It is slow. Some flour millers have gone out of their ways to do what they should do, but some have done nothing. The bill is good for Nigeria, it is good for our farmers and good for agriculture. I really think if it is well handled, it would work fine,” he said.

Also, the Managing Director of Ocean bakery and the representative of the master bakers association, North central, Mr Isaiah Sak, who was skeptical about the implementation of the billwent passed into law said as it is the norm in Nigeria where good policies are poorly implemented if the bill is signed into law, it will create more job.

Mr Sak who also lamented that the government promised incentive for farmers since 2012 has not been accessible, said if the government released the Cassava Bread Development Fund, it would be used to support research and development efforts on cassava bread, training of master bakers, and support for master bakers for the acquisition of new equipment for production.

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