The Federal Government on Thursday moved to reduce the importation of flour by encouraging bakers to add at least 10 per cent of cassava flour for baking.
Alhaji Musibau Azeez, the Director, Agric Business and Marketing Department, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) made this known at a meeting with Cassava Bread Development Fund stakeholders in Abuja.
The meeting was organised by the Bank of Industry (BOI) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Development.
Azeez said that the intention of the Federal Government was to ensure that farmers were able to produce enough cassava of up to 10 per cent to add to flour for baking.
According to him, if this is done, the amount of flour imported into the country will be reduced.
He said that the Federal Government in 2013 and 2014 set aside some money to produce high quality cassava that could be used for bread.
He, however, lamented that some of those who borrowed the money for that purpose refused to pay back their loans without even using the money for cassava bread.
“The bakers’ attitudes are that these are free funds and they are not going to pay back; only a few people paid back their loans,” he said.
The director said that 86 per cent of the loans collected by bakers were yet to be repaid, while 23 per cent of the loans collected by processors were not paid back.
Azeez said that to achieve the objective of reducing flour importation in the country and produce cassava flour, the Federal Government would cease to recognise factions in the bakers association until they were united.
He said that the ministry was poised to change the face of cassava, adding that as a result of many coming into cassava farming, the prices of cassava had drastically reduced. He said government needed both the master bakers and processors to create jobs for the country, stressing that it was the reason the Federal Government extended the gesture to give out the loan.
Dr Ezekiel Oseni, the Chief Risk Officer, BOI expressed dissatisfaction with the way the loan were being repaid, adding that no deliberate conscious effort was made to repay the loans.
Oseni said that 55 beneficiaries from the master bakers sold their equipment given as loans, adding that this was a breach of agreement.
“This raises a lot of concerns because the people are not willing to pay back while some blame it on the association that they were told not to pay.
“If you have sold the equipment, then we have no option than to use the law enforcement agencies to go after you because there is nothing to restructure in the loan again.”
Mr Jude Okafor, the National Secretary, Master Bakers Association said that though some of its members collected the equipment as loans “but not all of them collected’’.
Okafor called on the BOI and FMARD to wave the interest rate and restructure the loan to enable their members pay back there loans. He however appealed to BOI to disburse other equipment for its members.
He decried lack of unity in the association because some people were not ready to relinquish their positions because of some perceived benefits.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bakers association are factionalised because of the disbursement of the loan, while some benefited, others were not so privileged.
Pastor Timothy Soladoye, who represented the National President, National Cassava Processor and Marketers Association said one of the reasons they found it difficult to pay was that farmers inflated the prices of raw materials making repayment difficult.
He said that off takers were not buying the cassava flour, adding that this was the reason cassava flour value chain broke because they were not patronised. (NAN).
Source: Daily Trust