A press report in Nigeria suggests that the Nigerian government may be planning to abandon its cassava blending policy, following repeated delays in expanding processing capacity for high-quality cassava flour in line with the government targets (for details of government objectives see Agritrade article ‘ Debate on cassava flour in bread intensifies in Nigeria’, 6 August 2012). A source at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reportedly told the local media that “the policy is known by all to be a well thought out one, but it is also going to impact on the profitability of many of the wheat importers and processors in the country.”
Local wheat processors, for their part, have commented that while “the policy may look good on paper”, it has been “doomed to fail” from its inception, since “bread and other confectioneries made from a blend of wheat and cassava flour [are] just not good”. According to flour processors, “bread from composite [flour] has low shelf life, poor taste and… is inconsistent.”
According to the report, the ministry source suggested that the current cassava blending policy would “probably just fizzle away slowly”.
It appears the press report does not reflect current declared government policy. At a stakeholders’ meeting on 10 April 2014, the team leader for the Cassava Value Chain Development initiative at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development refuted this and similar reports and announced the finalisation of an Executive Bill to institutionalise the cassava blending policy. Once passed into law, the Bill will introduce fines and other punitive measures for any baker found contravening blending requirements (ranging from a fine of Naira 100,000 – about €450 – to a 5-year suspension of the baker’s licence to operate). The Bill also seeks to introduce special tax measures to give incentives for the blending of cassava and wheat flour.
While the legal framework may help to address some teething problems with the initiative, related to labelling and investment, serious questions arise as to whether punitive legislative measures are likely to be effective in overcoming the constraints that exist on the effective implementation of the government’s cassava blending policy.
Far greater attention will need to be paid to:
- assisting millers and bakers in securing appropriate technology;
- equipping millers to effectively use the new technology to produce consistent, high-quality composite flour;
- equipping bakers to effectively work with composite flour to produce bread that consumers are willing to buy.
To date, the potential importance of the initiative to stimulate local agricultural production has been recognised – if it can be successfully implemented. But, more than two years after the policy was announced, there is little evidence on the ground that bakeries across the country have the equipment and staff skills to implement the policy.