The Federal Government said it had concluded plans to establish a cassava processing fund to ensure effective processing and production of the commodity in the country. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister for Economy, made this known in Abuja at the launch of incentives to boost cassava production.
“We are reducing the duty on cassava enhancing enzymes from 10 per cent to zero per cent to encourage the bakers and millers in the industry. We are going to use part of the 65 per cent levy on wheat flour to create a Cassava Bread Development Fund and this fund will be used to support the cassava value chain,’’ she said.
According to her, the reduction in the duty on cassava enhancing enzymes will take effect from July 15. She recalled that the President while presenting budget in December 2011 announced that wheat flour, would, effective July 1, attract 65 per cent levy. This, she said, was to encourage the substitution of wheat flour with cassava flour in bread making. The minister noted that the cassava fund was part of government’s effort to support master bakers, adding that the fund would also be used for research, experimentation, bringing in of new equipment.
“We want to support the decentralisation of milling and baking through the provision of We will have from this fund, the ability to support training, so that the master bakers who have over 400,000 members all over the country, can get adequate training and support to produce this bread,’’ she added. Okonjo-Iweala said that the secretariat for the development of the fund would be domiciled in the Fiscal Affairs Department of the Budget Office of the Federation.
She said that the Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Trade and Investment and the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation would be the initial members of the development fund. “We are embarking on a new road map, we are changing the structure of this industry, we are showing Nigerians that when we want to launch something new, we will put our money where our month is. “So it is not just talk but action,’’ she said. Earlier, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, observed that the country could not continue to import wheat.
He said that the country spent N635 billion annually importing wheat, adding that this should not continue. “We don’t grow it; it does not create jobs for Nigerian farmers. It only creates money for some few people. Overtime, we know we will need high quality cassava flour. We are importing 18 quality cassava mills from China to support mechanised farming.’’ He said the flour mill industry was bent on undermining the efforts of the Federal Government, adding that the ministry would create new clusters of millers who would break the monopoly of the flour millers. According to him, the cassava flour being produced in the country could be used to replace some of the wheat flour being imported.