Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has expressed Nigeria’s readiness to provide technical assistance to Malawi on cassava flour composite in bread making.
Adesina disclosed this in Abuja at a recent media conference on ‘High cassava bread derivatives’. He said President Goodluck Jonathan had sold the idea to offer technical assistance to Malawi when he visited President Joyce Banda in March.
The minister said Banda was surprised that the bread she ate at the dinner with Jonathan and Adesina was made from cassava flour. “President of Malawi said ‘I cannot believe it’. You cannot make bread out of cassava. Mr. President said ‘well, that is what you have’. She said, ‘give me the bread’; they went into the house and packed bread into her Limousine to take to Malawi.
“She turns to Mr. President and said, ‘can I import cassava flour from Nigeria to make this composite bread in Malawi so I can reduce my cost of import of wheat? President (Jonathan) said ‘no; we need that for Nigeria. We can help you in terms of technical partnership for you to do yours’. A week ago I got a letter from the office of the President of Malawi asking us for technical support to that in Malawi”, he narrated.
Adesina said other countries in Africa had indicated interest for Nigeria to offer similar technical support to them in the high quality cassava bread derivatives.
He recalled that the Director of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, at the launch of the African Human Development report, said the organisation would give the initiative the necessary support.
Adesina said the Federal Government was determined to ensure that it develop markets for cassava. He decried media reports that the House of Representatives had rejected a Bill on mandatory inclusion of 40 per cent cassava flour in bread.
The minister said there was no such Bill from the executive arm of government, adding that it was just a figment of the imagination of some people. Some publications had also reported that the 40 per cent mandatory cassava flour in bread could increase blood sugar level.
Adesina, however, said that composite cassava flour mixed with wheat flour could improve health. “It’s about our economy, when we spent all our money importing food, do you know what happens? The value of the naira crashes following exchange declines.
“The price of everything goes up. We have 34 million hectares of land, which we are not using more than 40 per cent. Nigeria should be a power house producing food, exporting food, processing food and that is what we are doing”, he added.
The minister said success had been achieved in the substitution of cassava flour with wheat flour in bread and confectioneries, and that the use of cassava in bread was an economic decision.