BY PETER OKUTU
ABAKALIKI—THE Federal Government has said that the current innovation in the agricultural sector, which is geared towards the production of cassava wheat for bread production, would not only curb the menace of unemployment but also save the country much of the N600 billion spent on wheat flour importation annually.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who stated this during a one day training of Master Bakers in South East geopolitical zone in Abakaliki, revealed that in the next planting season, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture would go to seven states of the federation to empower farmers on how to grow home-made wheat for bread production and other edibles.
Adesina, who was represented by a Director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Olusegun Ayeni, noted that the target of the Federal Government was to drastically reduce the country’s importation of wheat flour estimated at N600 billion annually and boost the production and consumption of cassava food across the country.
He said: “The major reason we embarked on this is because the Federal Ministry of Agriculture through the President discovered that cassava is a good alternative to wheat and because we want to reduce the country’s importation of wheat flour which has been estimated at 600 billion annually.
“The implication of this importation is that we are creating jobs for people outside the country while our own people are suffering.
“Also, at the federal level, the National Research Institute has developed new varieties of wheat that can be grown in other parts of the country and by next planting season, we are going to go to about seven states so that farmers can be empowered to grow our own kind of wheat that is even far more better than wheat imported outside the country.”
“By this, more farmers will be engaged that is, creating jobs and at the same time get more wheat for our local use.”
The training, which is a collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Master Bakers in the Eastern zone, was aimed at substituting wheat flour with cassava flour in bread production
In a remark, the State Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Anslem Opara, stated that the training was held in the South East to boost the awareness of the production of bread through cassava flour and provide an enabling market for the product.
“The master bakers are being given grass root training on how to go about the production and as at now, they have achieved 20% substitution of wheat with cassava.
“We expect that there will be massive production of cassava bread and as soon people understand that cassava bread is even more nutritious than even the usual wheat bread, the market will be viable for the master bakers and they will continue.
“In the south west, the acceptance level for this development is high and it is a bit low in the South east and that is why we decided to organize this training program.
“We are training 10 bakers per state under the Association of Master Bakers, South East and these 10 bakers are supposed to go back and organize further training at the state level,” he said.