The federal government has been advised to revisit its policy on the use of cassava flour for bread making.
This charge was handed down by the Finance and Business Online Publishers (FiBOP) Association at the end of its monthly review of the economy.
The charge according to the association became imperative in view of the soaring cost of bread and other food items occasioned by the ongoing Russia – Ukraine war.
Nigeria is currently facing a serious food crisis as many average citizens cannot afford staples especially bread due to escalated cost of the product.
The crisis is occasioned by the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine which has disrupted the supply of wheat to Nigeria.
Data released by the US Department of Agriculture showed that Nigeria produces about 60,000 metric tonnes of wheat and yearly demand stands at between 4.5 and 5.0 million tonnes.
Nigeria relies on Russia and Ukraine for 30 per cent of its wheat supply but with the raging war between the two neighbouring East European nations, grain exports have been disrupted by lack of transportation because of port closures and international sanctions slammed on Russia.
Nigeria, according to available statistics imported $403.65 million worth of grains from Russia in 2020 and $409.23m from Ukraine within the same period.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated that Nigeria imported N898.2 billion worth of wheat within nine months as of September 2021.
The top sources of the product to Nigeria in 2021, according to statistics, were USA, N194.2 billion; Canada, N136.4 billion, Russia, N124 billion, Lithuania, N122.3 billion and Latvia, N115.9 billion.
With the Russia-Ukraine conflict’s intensity and duration uncertain, the Director General of Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Qu Dongyu, said, “the likely disruptions to agricultural activities of these two major exporters of staple commodities could seriously escalate food insecurity globally when international food and input prices are already high and vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, some weeks ago, the European Union revealed that about 30 ships fully loaded with wheat were blocked by the Russian navy from leaving Ukrainian ports for their destinations in African. The resultant scarcity has further pushed up the market price of wheat.
Wheat Price Vs bread
Investigation by FiBOP revealed that loaves of bread which hitherto sold for N200, N350, N400 and N500 respectively have now gone up to N500, N600, N700 and N800 or more in some instances.
It also discovered that prices of the product keep increasing virtually every weekend in Lagos, for instance.
“The one we buy N800 this weekend may cost N900 next week. We are inching closer to buying a loaf of bread for N1500 at the rate things are going. And when that happens, many more will not be able to afford bread. Already, many families, especially those pretty large ones, like three children plus parents now regard bread as luxury food because of cost,” Mrs. Eunice Adebayo told FiBOP in an interview.
It was also found that a 100 kilogramme bag of wheat which sold for between N25, 000 and N26, 000 in 2021 now sells between N36, 000 and N37, 000 in some states. A 10 kilogramme bag of the product sells for N10, 000; 5 kilogrammes, N5, 000; 2 kilogrammes, N1, 200; 1 kilogramme, N600 and 50 kilogrammes, N21, 000.
We wish to recall that the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), in the year 2017 drummed support for composite bread, that is a mix of Cassava and Wheat flour for bread.
FiBOP is of the view that the Federal Government should revisit the issue with a view to improving on the quality of output of this combination. This measure becomes necessary when it is realized that it is going to ensure that bread as a staple food does not disappear completely from the table of the common man as a result of it’s spiraling price.
Moreover, aside from helping to conserve the nation’s foreign exchange, it will also help in ensuring food security for the nation and Nigerians.
FiBOP also wished to use this medium to advise the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to intensify support for cassava cultivation and cassava flour processing.
It is our view that if the CBN can give the same amount of support to cassava cultivation and processing like it did to rice, then Nigeria would be inching towards food sufficiency and better forex earnings.
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