In the bid to boost cassava bread production, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Bank of Industry.

The MoU, signed in Abuja on Tuesday, provides for the bank to create a N4.3 billion facility to support the project.

Speaking during the occasion, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, said that the facility was designed to support master bakers, Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs (SME).

 According to him, the facility will also promote large industrial cassava flour millers.

Adesina said that the facility would be used to upgrade capacity, serve as working loan and support bakers to acquire new machinery and equipment.

“A total of 5,000 master bakers will be trained and they will be supported to acquire new baking equipment such as rotary ovens, chillers and mixers for baking this kind of very lovely cassava bread.

“We expect that within the next 12 months, these 5,000 bakers across the country will be producing tasty cassava bread while the production of high quality cassava flour will have expanded significantly.’’

He said further that N1.05 billon of the facility would be used to upgrade the capacity of 35 existing small cassava flour mills in the country.

He added that the support would be provided as 50 per cent loan and 50 per cent grant to the beneficiaries.

“The Bank of industry will provide working capital of N425million as loan to the SME cassava flour processors at single digit interest rate.

“The facility will provide the sum of N468 million as working capital loans at single digit interest rates to medium and large cassava flour millers.

“It will also make available the sum of N2.2 billion to support master bakers and industrial bakers as 50 per cent loans and grants for them to acquire new machinery,’’ Adesina said.

The minister stressed that the Cassava Bread Fund established by the Federal Government earlier this year would be managed in a transparent manner, ensuring rapid commercialisation of the cassava bread.

“The fund is to provide support for many cassava farmers to grow cassava in commercial quantities and to thousands of master bakers to move into the use of cassava wheat,’’ he added.

Also speaking, the Managing Director/Chief Executive of B0I, Ms Evelyn Oputu, commended the ministry for the initiative, expressing the bank’s commitment to support it to achieve its goal.

Oputu, said that the BOI would partner with the ministry to see that the objective of the initiative was achieved.

She said that the bank had been involved in the industrialization process in the country, adding that more would be done especially as the product gained more acceptance.

Oputu also noted that SMEs were the biggest players in the cassava processing industry in the country.

“The Bank of Industry is supposed to help catalyze industrialization in our country with 85 per cent of the bank’s resources put in medium and small-scale enterprises.’’ she said.

Oputu called for stronger partnership among the stakeholders to guarantee the success of the facility.

In his remarks, the President, Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, Mr Simeon Abanulor, urged the BOI to ensure that there were no bottlenecks that would hinder access to the facility.

Abanulor said that the association had certified 360 trained bakers for the facility.

He said that the association expected that 740 more bakers would be trained at the by the end of January 2014.

Source-NAN.

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