In compliance with a request (as stated earlier) for a repeat of my standpoint on this subject at a seminar not too long ago, I continue here with highlights on my position about strengthening the supply chain for consumers’ access and affordability; and marketing strategy – All essential for Nigerians to indeed say “Yes” to the “Nigerian bread”. My perception about the justification and benefits derivable from accepting this product, nation-wide, has been expressed in the preceding write-up. “Nigerian bread”, as tag, will be applied interchangeably with “Cassava bread” for a reason already stated.
As regards the supply chain applicable to the process of production, purchase and subsequent consumption of “Cassava bread” or “Nigerian bread”, one must not overlook the place of the farmers, flour millers, and master bakers. This calls for some elaboration here on their relevance in making this product available on the breakfast tables of Nigerians (and even foreigners/visitors desirous of a ‘better feel’ of Nigeria).
Nigeria is known to be the largest producer of cassava, but occupies no position in the global cassava market. This is indicative of the fact that until recently, efforts of the typical Nigerian cassava farmer have tilted mainly towards subsistence – Epitomised by the production of ‘garri’, ‘akpu’ or ‘fufu’ for domestic consumption – Then to feed some local manufacturing and pharmaceutical plants, most of which have been struggling to exist. The rare ministerial dynamism of the present minister of agriculture and rural development seems to be favourably impacting on cassava farmers, as cultivation of cassava is fast receiving a boost. Aside promoting pro-Vitamin A cassava varieties, with the recent export order of the Chinese for 3 million metric tons of cassava chips, resulting in Nigeria sourcing funds to enable 20,000 farmers cultivate 60,000 hectares of farmland in 2013, who says it is not time for cassava farmers to have great improvements in their bank balance? Now there is a ‘favourable gesture’ towards cassava cultivation, regular supply of raw material for the production of “Nigerian bread” seems assured.
These are comprised of the various major and medium sized flour mills in the country. As we all know, they have been functionally engaged in the importation of wheat and then mill it into the various brands of flour that abound in the market. Remember, bread still stands defined as, “a staple food made from flour or meal mixed with other dry and liquid ingredients, usually combined with a leavening agent, and kneaded, shaped into loaves, and baked”. The existence of a very large and influential global wheat cartel is no secret. Who says Nigeria is insulated from its ‘firm grip’ on the wheat market? With the introduction of “Cassava bread”, and all it attendant benefits to the Nigerian economy (as highlighted earlier), these ‘big players’ are no doubt likely to see this ‘new kid on the block’ as a spoil spot. Since these major flour millers will likely perceive the advent of the “Nigerian bread” as sand in their ‘garri’, I will not be surprised if efforts of the promoters of this concept (at stimulating flour millers to adapt from existing milling process in favour of “Nigerian bread”) are met with resistance.
Where there is cooperation from flour millers, one expects a situation that makes for adaptation of the existing milling process of these big players to suit the new model through change of lines to fit cassava milling or establish mill(s) exclusively for it. I am quite mindful of consideration for other related activities of product development; ascertaining profitability process; components of branding, etc, for this new concept. Nevertheless, as I sense the reverse (no interest in collaborating with the concept promoters) to be likely the case, there is always a Plan B. I see a situation where promoters of “Nigerian bread” take to the alternative of either boosting the activities of small time millers or encourage the advent of new ones – All to mill cassava into flour as part of 20% to 40% incorporation into wheat flour for “Nigerian bread”.
Along this same supply chain comes the Master Bakers. What comes to mind when one considers this group is the operators of the numerous major bakeries around, typified by ‘factories’ for the well known “Agege bread” and other bakers that dot major commercial centres of Nigeria. These are mostly members of the influential Master Bakers and Caterers Association of Nigeria. Some of them are corporate bakers, one of which is well known to have earnestly imbibed this concept of cassava-wheat composite flour bread, and even poised for the export market. Sadly enough, Nigerians are yet to be aware of the product, not to mention the local market for “Nigerian bread” being saturated, before venturing into exportation.
The Master Bakers need to be educated on this cassava-wheat composite flour bread, in line with all that is required for its adaptation and commercialization. In the same vein, related areas of hindrance and challenges in the baking process should be recognized, while all aspects of clearly ascertaining consumers’ acceptance of this ‘indigenous version’ of their output (e.g. test market, and branding to facilitate product identification) must be considered. It does not make sense to expect the consumers awaiting delivery and subsequent intake of “Nigerian bread” to achieve their desire without the master bakers’ endorsement of this concept.
(To be continued).