Researchers and industrialists have urged master bakers and others in the bakery and confectionery businesses to experiment and adopt the use of Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) and cassava flour to reduce cost of production and prices of the products.

 Master bakers in Nigeria had, last week, threatened strike following abnormal rises in the price of wheat flour and other inputs in the production of bread. However, the threat was immediately followed by increase in the price of bread, with a loaf of 850-900grm sold at N1000 now, from N800 before the increase.

The increase in wheat flour has continuously brought huge pressure on bakers.

  Head, Iresi Outstation, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Solomon Olufemi Afuape, said, OFSP attains maturity within three months and depending on altitude, and has high beta-carotene (provitamin A) content, as high as above 10mg/100g FW, which implies additional nutritional advantage when added into bread.

 Also, Sano Foods, a processor of potato puree, urged bakers to embrace OFSP puree inclusion in bread production to save 20 per cent of their flour production cost.

  The company’s spokesman, Mr. Mark Adejare, said that the OFSP puree has been endorsed by the Association of Master Bakers and Cateres of Nigeria.

  “It has been proven over time that over 20 per cent inclusion of OFSP in bread is achievable and it also helps to save cost.

  “Amidst high cost of flour price, several bakeries have embraced the OFSP puree. This is a time where bakers should become more creative and explore the huge benefits OFSP puree offers,” he said.

  He listed other benefits of adding the OFSP to bread production as reduction in volume of sugar, butter and sweetener, saying: “It also increases the shelf life of the bread.”

  On the economics of production, the current price of OFSP per kg is N380, while wheat price per kg is N610, and keeps rising. Adding the puree also reduces sugar use in bread by over five per cent, which further reduces cost of production.

  The Director and Head, Food Technology Department, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Dr (Mrs) Oluwatoyin Oluwole, explained to The Guardian that adding orange fleshed sweet potato to wheat flour makes bread cheper to produce, and affordable if potato is available.

  She said it is either added as paste or flour, but emphasized that paste is better to retain high level of vitamin A in the puree.

  She said: “When we analyse it, 20 to 25 per cent substitution is good and product excellent. The government and Nigerian businessmen have not utilised research products developed by FIIRO and other institutes. We should look inward to substitute.”

  A baker at Ikotun-Egbe, Mrv Wole Toye, also disclosed that currently, he is convinced it is economically viable and sustainable with at least,10 per cent reduction in cost of production, apart from reduction of sugar cost, because the puree is naturally sweet, with vitamin A.

  He too said Nigeria should utilize more of local contents to reduce dependence on importation of raw materials and products, especially wheat.

  A bakery specialist and consultant, Kehinde Ajayi, said OFSP puree-added product is very standard, and 20 per cent of inclusion is recommended, that is, 20kg potato puree added to 80kg wheat flour.

  He added that there is a slight sugar reduction and every other input/recipe is constant.

  The Secretary, Association of Master Bakers, Mr Jude Okafor, cassava flour policy is good and would help the bakery sector tremendously, but the policy is not implemented as designed.

  He expressed the hope that the current efforts in the National Assembly would activate an act that would boost the implementation of the policy.

  Okafor said added to cassava flour inclusion is the discovery OFSP puree, which he said is faster, cheaper and has the potential of greater production with two or more cycles in a year.

 “I have done it and it works. We should explore as many local contents and much as possible to diversify the raw material base. Sorghum flour is another good material in bread,” he said.

 A bag of wheat flour, he added, has been increased to N31,000 while the master bakers were protesting. He urged the government to destroy monopolistic systems that encourage abnormal increase in prices of products.

  Again, the baker said most of the bakeries in Nigeria were producing at about 30 per cent capacity, and this would compound unemployment situation in the country if the trend continued.

On cassava flour in bread, while it is cheaper than wheat flour, it is not as affordable as potato puree.

  Cassava roots mature in one year, while sweet potato matures in three to four months. OFSP is produced twice in a year, making it faster to produce and cheaper than cassava flour in bread.

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