By Gabriel Olawale
As the crisis in the baking and confectionary sector intensify due to the escalating price of imported flour, stakeholders in Food Science technology and manufacturing sector has warned that bakers in Nigeria have just one option to remain in business. The one option is for them to put on their thinking cap and be creative on how to depend less on imported flour.
The imperative of this reality is compounded by the fact that the Russia and Ukrain war is not in any way showing any sign of coming to an end soon. More than 90% of flour used in Nigeria is imported from Russia, Ukraine and Agentina and the crisis in Russia and Ukraine has pushed up the price of flour. This is further worsen considering the fact that importers of flour are not given forex concession by the government meaning they have to source forex for importation from the black market. With all these challenges, it is obvious that for any serious entrepreneur in the baking and confectionary sector to remain in business, dependence on 100% imported bread inputs is no longer sustainable.
Narrating her experience, Mrs. Bumi Dada, the managing Director of Crystal Bakery stated that the last three months have been very challenging for her as the cost of producing bread has become unbearable and unpredictable.
“The most unpredictable aspect of it is that the changes in price of flour, sugar, gas and everything we used in baking have refused to be stable. You go to the market today and the flour you are buying for N4000, by the time you go back in a week time with the same N4000, you triose the price has gone to N7000. The price is not increasing every 5 months or more, but almost on a weekly basis, Mrs Dada lamented.
She disclosed that the price increase for bread that bakers embarked upon last week was quite inevitable as a lot of bakers were already shutting down their businesses. The price has also practically affected patronage as a lot of people are switching from bread.
According to her, the feedback from bread retailers revealed that people are gradually dropping bread from their breakfast table.
Nigeria has been at this spot before during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan when as a way of encouraging bakers to explore the use of local wheat and flour, the cassava bread was launched. Unfortunately, that initiative was not given the needed support by government and local manufacturers did not take full advantage of that opportunity by producing local flour substitutes. But the reality of today is forcing bakers to begin to look inward for survival and local Food Technologists have gone back to their laboratory and factories to bail bakers out as local bread ingredients are being launched.
In an interview, a renowned Food Technologist and the Managing Director of Spectra Industries Limited, Mr. Duro Kuteyi disclosed that bakers have nothing to lose looking inward.
“Like they always say, necessity is the mother of invention. Where we are in Nigeria today will bring out the best from people who are creative. For us in Spectra Industries, we have come up with a product Sobake which is defatted soya flour obtained from graded soybeans. Apart from the fact that this product has high amount of protein, the lower fat content of defatted soya helps to increase the shelf life span of bread and from the feedback of bakers that are using our Sobake, the product has become a welcome relief for bakers. Mr. Kuteyi stated.
Mrs Nike Akinriwoye is into cake baking. According to her, for her to remain in business, she is resorting to local bread ingredients that are more affordable than imported flours.
“I have tried Sobake and I realize that it is quite good and save me a lot of money without affecting the quality of my baking even though initially when it was introduced to me, I had the fear whether it will meet the required standard that my customers always look out for. But after trying it, I realize that it blends perfectly when mixed with the imported flour,” Mrs Akinriwoye disclosed.
Can indigenous manufacturers explore this opportunity by raising the standard of the quality of their made in Nigeria flour? Only time will tell.
But one thing is sure, depending 100% on imported flour will surely take bread out of the breakfast table of a lot of Nigerians thereby compounding the bread crisis in the country.