Determined to keeping prices of bread within the reach of Nigerians as major inputs become costlier, some master bakers are employing bio-fortified Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) in the baking of bread and other confectioneries.
In support, potato farmers have expressed readiness to scale up production of the crop, if industrialization of the root crop is embraced by puree processors and its demand is guaranteed.
Factors such as low production of wheat in Nigeria, high naira-dollar exchange rate and heavy dependence on import of other inputs have made operations difficult for bakers and made prices high and unaffordable to the poor.
Apart from the nutritional and health benefits of OFSP puree, including beta-carotene and fibre, with high nutritional value in Vitamin-A for eye health, Vitamin B6 for healthy metabolism and nervous system, Vitamin-C for immune health and Vitamin-D, which plays an important role in carrying out vital functions in the body system, its inclusion would reduce the country’s yearly wheat importation and conserve foreign reserves, as stakeholders and researchers have demonstrated.
Based on production analysis and experiments at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) a few months ago, a kilogramme of wheat was N300 or more, depending on bulk or retail buying, but a kilogramme of OFSP puree was N200. Hence, bakers tended to reduce cost of production by N100 on every kilogramme of OFSP puree used with wheat flour. However, The Guardian investigation shows that the price of wheat flour per kilogramme is now over N400.
To every 40-kg bag of wheat flour, 10-kg OFSP puree could be added at 20 per cent and the cost reduction implication then was a minimum of N1000.
Again, because OFSP is sweet, the usage of milk, sugar and wheat flour in the FIIRO bread experiment was reduced by five per cent. To a large-scale bakery, the percentage translated into a huge profit margin that might keep the business afloat. ‘’On every 50kg bag of wheat flour, 1.5kgs of sugar is saved, 10kgs of wheat flour is substituted with the puree and N180 is saved on every kilogram substituted. So, using 10kgs of OFSP puree with 40kgs of wheat flour reduces cost of production by N1800, apart from reduction in the quantity of sugar used,’’ Jude Okafor, national secretary of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria explained.
He added that bread shelf life is elongated and 500grm of milk is saved per 50kg-bag of flour when 10kg puree is included. He expressed optimism that the potential demand from master bakers would deepen production, calling on the CBN to incorporate sweet potato into the ABP (Anchor Borrower’s Programme) scheme to maximize production since there are processors and off-takers of the bye-products.
Nigeria’s arable land is suitable for the production of sweet potato, and an average of 10 metric tonnes are produced per hectare.
It takes between three and four months for potato to mature. Hence, sweet potato can be planted three times in a year, especially if supported with irrigation facilities. Without irrigation, two crops of production are feasible in the North-Central, South-West, South-South and South-East ecological zones.
Experts have said sweet potato puree is more competitive than cassava flour inclusion or full wheat flour usage in confectionaries.