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FG LAMENTS LOSS OF N635BN ANNUALLY TO WHEAT IMPORTS

By NBF News
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The Federal Government has decried the loss of about N635 billion expended on the importation of wheat into the country, noting that the country could save more than N315 billion (about $2.1 billion) annually if bakers adopt 50 per cent cassava flour inclusion in baking bread for the local market.

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akin Adesina, who disclosed this said at the moment, Nigeria imports wheat worth N635 billion (about $4.2 billion) annually, hurting its foreign exchange earnings and worsening the rate of unemployment. The inclusion of cassava in bread aims to cut imports of wheat by half.

'The spending on food imports is unacceptable,' Adesina said during the launch of the Cassava Transformation Agenda at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan.

A statement from IITA quoted the Minister as urging Nigerians to embrace the consumption of bread with cassava flour content.

According to him, 'Apart from Nigeria saving N315 billion, it will also create jobs and encourage farmers to produce more.'

In 2002, Nigeria adopted a policy compelling flour millers to implement 10 per cent cassava flour into wheat flour. The policy backed by improved varieties from IITA raised cassava production by 10 million tons between 2002 and 2008, making the country the largest producer of cassava.

Under the new transformation agenda, Nigeria plans to double its current cassava production from 37 million tons. The Critical areas the government is focusing on are value addition to make production demand driven and the improvement of yield among others.

Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General, in an address to Nigeria's Cassava Transformation team on Thursday, says the inclusion of cassava flour in bread is a sure way of stimulating the demand for cassava.

The cassava bread baked by researchers from IITA is patronized by staff and visitors to the institute. Consumers love it and a survey carried out recently recorded positive perception on the product.

Rich in carbohydrates, cassava is a staple to more than 600 million people in the developing world.

In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), cassava is mainly a subsistence crop grown for food by small-scale farmers who sell the surplus. It grows well in poor soils with limited labor requirements. It also provides food security during conflicts when the invader cannot easily destroy or remove the crop, since it conveniently grows underground. Cassava is usually intercropped with vegetables, plantation crops (such as coconut, oil palm, and coffee), yam, sweet potato, melon, maize, rice, groundnut, or other legumes.

Apart from food, cassava is very versatile and its derivatives and starch are applicable in many types of products such as foods, confectionery, sweeteners, glues, plywood, textiles, paper, biodegradable products, monosodium glutamate, and drugs. Cassava chips and pellets are used in animal feed and alcohol production.