In spite of stiff opposition from the House of Representatives and a cross section of Nigerians, the Federal Government is pushing ahead with its policy on cassava bread.
On Thursday, it rolled out additional taxes aimed at discouraging continued importation of wheat and flour into the country. It believes the policy would force bakers to turn to cassava in making breads for local consumption.
The House of Representatives had passed a resolution rejecting the policy which aims at making Nigerians take to cassava bread. Some lawmakers argued that the policy could have serious health implication on some citizens.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said henceforth wheat and flour imports would attract 65 per cent levy, in addition to the 35 per cent duty on the commodity imposed in line with the approved 2012 budgetary provision, which becomes effective this month.
The minister also announced the establishment of a Cassava Bread Development Fund, amongst other fiscal measures by government to ensure that the policy on cassava bread succeeds and impact positively on other cassava value programme of the government.
The minister, who was interacting with flour millers and master bakers in Abuja, also announced the removal of the 10 per cent tariffs on cassava enhancing enzymes effective from Sunday, 15th July this year.
She reaffirmed government’s commitment to ensure the success of the cassava flour bread agenda in view of its far-reaching benefits to the economy, saying a new Cassava Flour Development Fund (CFDF) is be created immediately, in order to strengthen the technological and manpower capacities for the development of the entire cassava value chain.
According to the minister, the money to operate the Fund would be sourced from the newly imposed 65 levy on wheat imports and would be managed at first instance by the Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, Trade and Investment and Science Technology and the Director General of the Budget Office.
Mrs. Okonjo Iweala explained further that a substantial part of the Fund would go into training of the over 400,000 master bakers across the country, encourage the decentralisation of the baking industry as well as support them in understanding the operations of the new modular technologies that would be acquired to boost cassava flour processing as the implementation of the cassava bread is sustained.
“The wheat flour, which used to attract a duty rate of 35 per cent with no levy, will effective 1st of July, and in order to encourage the substitution of cassava flour for wheat flour, attracts not just the duty rate of 35 per cent, but also a 65 per cent levy”, the minister said. “That has now kicked into effect. So, that is where we were. This is to encourage the flour milling industry to kick in and begin to aid the substitution of cassava flour for wheat flour.
“But in addition to that incentive to the cassava value chain and to the cassava processing industry, we want to announce a couple more additional incentives that will help the industry. The first is with regard to cassava enhancing enzymes which the Minister of Agriculture just referred to.
“At present, they attract a duty rate of 10 per cent. We will reduce that to zero per cent effective from now. So, as from 15th July, we are reducing the duty on cassava enhancing enzymes from 10 per cent to zero per cent to encourage the bakers and the millers in the industry.
“The second thing that we would do is that 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 would be used to support the cassava value chain.”
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Akinwumi Adesina, appealed to flour millers against any act that would undermine the efforts of the government to use the cassava flour bread to transform the economy.
The minister said as had been pointed out, the success of the policy would not only save the country of up to N635 billion yearly on wheat import cost but also help in creating jobs and improving the wellbeing of Nigerian farmers amongst other benefits for the economy.