As a participant at a recent event where you gave a talk on marketing, it was evident that you were quite supportive of the present agriculture minister’s moves (in your words, a Master Stroke) at propagating the “Cassava bread”, which you justifiably tagged the “Nigerian bread”. You said the concept was still ‘hanging’ at the policy initiative stage, hence Nigerians were at a loss about its acceptance. Let patriotism nudge you to live up to your words, since I clearly heard you promise to replicate (in your weekly newspaper column) those hints given earlier – About what could be done for Nigerians to massively say ‘Yes’ to “Nigerian bread” – A.I. Adebiyi.
I try to live up to my words at all times, hence the decision to replace another write-up with this, even after its conclusion and availability for the ‘Editor’s desk’. Within available space here, and in sync with your request for a repeat on what was conveyed at the seminar hinted about, any form of replication would be reflective of highlights on the subject – Bearing one’s perception about the justification and benefits of product acceptance nation-wide; strengthening the supply chain for consumers’ access and affordability; marketing strategy required for Nigerians to indeed say “Yes” to the “Cassava bread”.
Due to one’s conviction on favourable name recognition, leading to enhanced product branding, the tag “Nigerian bread” will be upheld here and applied interchangeably with “Cassava bread”. With unique references to breads of other climes – French bread (a long slim, ‘police baton-like’, crusty cylindrical loaf I often loathed as a kid, since to me it never went well with a favourite butter, any other creamy sauce or spread); Australian ‘Damper’; Jewish ‘Bagel’; ‘Naan’ popular in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan; Flash, pocket or pita bread of North Africa and the Middle East; ‘Lao bing’ and steamed bread of the Chinese; thin, flat ‘Lavash’ bread; popular ‘Agege bread’ of Lagos, Nigeria; etc. – it is obvious that having a “Nigerian bread” is not out-of-place. More so, considering the place of cassava in this vicinity, as reminder of ‘Akpu’ and some uncomplimentary elements of ‘Fufu’.
A dictionary defines bread 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”. In a nutshell, it is a kind of food derived from flour or meal, mixed with milk or water, made into a dough or batter, with or without yeast or other leavening agent, and then baked. Bread occupies a prominent position in the daily family menu of the mass of Nigerians, especially within the lower rungs of the socio-economic strata in towns and semi-urban areas. Within the same social bracket, bread is so outstanding that it is termed a ready-made staple food (mainly for its relevance in aiding desires of the hungry for a quick-fix); and goes very well with stews, beans pottage, talk less of margarine, and a good dip into a mug of beverage like tea or cocoa.
“Nigerian Bread” is derived from the incorporation of cassava flour at 40% into wheat flour. Nigeria stands to benefit a great deal if mass acceptance of the concept of the “Nigerian bread” is achieved. This is more so when promoting this concept, through strengthening the feasibility of‘indigenous bread’ (with likely favourable pricing, no debilitating after-consumption effects) occupies centre stage.
I urge not to be misconstrued as chanting “Halleluyah” for the present minister of agriculture and rural development, on an impressive bid to make positive impact. We know efforts aimed at the provision of seedlings, fertilizer, and liberalisation of credits to farmers; then provision of pro-Vitamin A cassava varieties, partnering with the private sector among others, all seem to be gradually impacting on the target beneficiaries. But this seems not to be the case with the “Nigerian bread’’, which has remained elusive (still at the policy initiative stage even after Mr. President had promised he would subscribe to no other form of bread but “Nigerian bread” for breakfast).
Nigerians anticipated that by now bread derived from the incorporation of cassava flour into wheat flour would have been all over the place, even with popular “Agege bread” having a related version. As regards “Cassava bread” or “Nigerian bread” being imbibed by Nigerians, the minister’s efforts could be equated to biblical John the Baptist’s efforts at ‘preparing the way’ (seems a lone voice in the wilderness), as efforts at promotion for public engagement are just not there, hence Nigerians still scratching their heads (in perplexity) over product availability.
As justification for looking in the direction of the “Nigerian bread”, these benefits accruable from a successful introduction of the product should be considered, while having an eye on balancing economic consideration with product acceptance:
-Increased application of cassava flour to wheat flour makes for savings of more than N315 billion yearly
-Significant reduction in the importation of wheat (about N6.35billion annually)
-Helps to reduce pressure on the country’s economy, through reduction of imported items, of which wheat is key
-Creates direct substitute for whole wheat alternative (beneficial to the nation’s economy, with bread market growth rate of about nine per cent)
-With about 1.8 million loaves produced every day, bread is a Nigerian staple food which unites the people as every segment of the society savors it
(To be continued).