Following President Museveni's recommendation that local consumers take up consumption of Cassava as a replacement for wheat, researchers have moved fast and produced several recipes which are near perfect.
Working with the African Innovation Foundation, Wind Wood Millers, a Lira-based outfit has put on the market 2kg packets of the baking floor which is 70% wheat and 30% cassava.
“Due to high production costs, a kilo of this flour goes for sh7,000. But with more research and innovation, we hope to bring the prices down and also increase the proportion of cassava flour to 50 percent and wheat flour at 50 percent per kg before we completely get rid of the wheat and stop reliance on foreign markets,” said Joel Rubangapewany, the marketing and evaluation manager, Wind Wood Millers. The production outfit currently produces between 5-10 metric tonnes of floor per day.
However, researchers have called upon the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to come up with standards for this new flour, saying without such, Uganda cannot tap into the foreign market through exports of this product.
“In our effort to turn cassava into white gold, we have been working with several millers to find a perfect recipe that can work as an alternative to wheat, whose prices have shot through the roof due to supply chain disruption resulting out of the Russia-Ukraine war,” says Prof Otim Nape, the chairman of the African Research Institute.
While speaking during the private sector dialogue on “opportunities for import replacement along the Wheat value chain,” Prof Nape said the success of this product both in the local and international market will depend on UNBS certification, since consumers cannot trust a product without a “Q” mark.
Dr. Victoria Ssekitoleko, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) vice-chairperson said Uganda Revenue Authority should be equipped with a development arm to grow with the local industrialists and grow the number of taxpayers.
She said Government has heeded their call and reduced the 35% excise duty it had placed on Engule beer, which is made of cassava, which prompted the farmers to stop growing cassava commercially.
“In the 2022/23 annual budget this excise duty has been slashed to 12% from 35%, a move which we believe will revive the growing of cassava commercially, boost tax collections from Uganda Breweries, and increase the income of farmers countrywide,” she said, during the PSFU and Master Card Foundation sponsored dialogue held at Protea Hotel in Kololo, on Wednesday, June 23rd.
Local bread bakers such as Ntakke Bakeries, Hot Loaf Bakeries, and Maama Care Foundation have also chosen to substitute wheat with soya bean, cassava flour, millet, and maize flour.
Allen Nsereko, the Ntakke Bakery General Manager, which produces the Kaswa baking flour brand, said they are currently bringing in wheat grain from Argentina, the UK, and Germany, whose prices have shot up.
“While we were spending $250 per metric tonne in April 2022, we are currently buying the same amount at $550, and the price changes almost per week due to the loss of our traditional markets in Russia and Ukraine. To stay in the market, we just adjust our prices upwards whenever the wheat grain prices go up,” she told The New Vision in an interview.
Metano Kodawa, the Hot Loaf Bakery managing director decried the Government’s inaction in reigning in the wheat prices, saying they currently sell a 1kg loaf of bread at sh5,000, up from sh3800 in April this year.
The price of wheat flour per 50kg bag rose from 118,000 in April 2022 to sh165,000 currently. A 24kg carton composed of 12 2kg packets of wheat flour also rose from sh62,000 in April 2022 to sh85,000 currently. This has adversely impacted the market and prompted many chapatti sellers to raise their prices from sh500 per chapatti to sh1,000 currently.