Nigeria's wheat importers unpatriotic, says minister


Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina on Wednesday branded flour millers in the country as unpatriotic accusing them of deliberating undermining government’s policy on the substitution of the cassava for wheat in bread making.

He said recently, one of the millers’ Chief Executive Officers travelled to the United States of America giving assurances to their wheat growers that he would keep patronizing them in spite of President Goodluck Jonathan’s directive that import of wheat should be scaled down. The practice was killing the local economy he said.

Adesina was speaking at the presentation of a set of incentives to enhance cassava production to meet the need of the 40/60 per cent cassava/wheat in breads produced in Nigeria. Present at the meeting were representatives of bakers, flour millers and cassava processor where the finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced the removal of the 10 percent duty on bread enhancers with effect from 15 July.

He said “Nigeria is the highest cassava producer in the world with 40 million metric tons per year but we are also the highest importer of wheat. We spend N63 billion yearly importing wheat from the US; whereas the cassava we produce can be used to replace wheat in breadmaking.’

Although, few bakers have started implementing a 20 per cent cassava bread initiative, the flour millers were yet to key into the government policy, Dr Adesina lamented.

He challenged the millers to “rise and be patriotic by supporting government policies,” while also dismissing fears of the hygienic quality of bread made with cassava.

He said so many people have been selling lies that cassava bread is not good for consumption. Cassava flour has 57 per cent glycerin index whereas white flour has 70 per cent. It’s about jobs and we can’t be transporting jobs to other countries through wheat imports.”

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Government also announced that it would import enhancers from South-Africa and China in pursuance of its use of cassava as part of bread making, minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said yesterday. The enzymes are used to enhance the ability of bread to rise and are not produced in Nigeria.

She said the 65 percent levy imposed on wheat importation by President Goodluck Jonathan which has taken effect was to discourage importation of same and a zero duty would now apply to cassava bread enhancers to encourage the use of cassava in bread. The bread enhancers used to attract 10 per cent duty but starting from July 15, importers of the product will no longer pay duties.

She said this in Abuja on Wednesday at a session with the Nigerian Master Bakers Association and flour millers. The minister said the proceeds from 65 per cent levy on wheat would be used to create a cassava development fund. The fund would be used to support scientific research in the cassava value chain as it relate to bread, training of bakers in the new method across the country as well as decentralizing milling in the country.

The fund will be resident at the fiscal department of the office of the Budget office of the federation, she said.

The Directors-General of the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Budget office of the Federation, ministers of finance and Agriculture would constitute the pioneer board of the fund, Okonjo-Iweala said.

Earlier, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Dr Akinwumi Adesina said bakers and millers needed the support of the federal government to achieve its aim of having bread made with 40 per cent cassava.

They need support in equipment such as chillers, mixers among others he said. He said “we need enzymes to make the bread rise which we don’t produce in Nigeria. It will be imported from South Africa, in the meantime. A new cluster will be built to produce the enhancers” later. Eighteen high quality cassava flour enhancers would be imported from China which would enable Nigeria process 1.4 metric tons of cassava flour, the minister announced in addiction to support to be rendered to farmers to grow sufficient cassava for the millers.

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