Nigeria’s bakers call for wheat tax to be scrapped following failure of cassava bread program

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Nigerian bakers want the government to make reforms on bread and wheat policies. Pic: ©GettyImages/Wavebreakmedia
Nigerian bakers want the government to make reforms on bread and wheat policies. Pic: ©GettyImages/Wavebreakmedia
The Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN) has called on the country’s federal government to ditch the 15% levy collection on wheat importation in light of the failure of the Cassava Bread Development Fund (CBDF).

The government rolled out the tax in 2012 to discourage the importation of wheat and flour in an effort to force bakers to turn to cassava in making breads for local consumption.

According to the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the monies collected by the CBDF would go toward training the country’s 400,000+ master bakers in the new modular technologies that would be acquired to boost cassava flour processing.

Back then, the minister said the policy would save the country around N635bn annually ($1.76bn) on wheat import costs and help in creating jobs and improving the wellbeing of Nigerian farmers.

Dismal failure

However, this week, the national secretary of AMBCN, Jude Okafor, said the initiative has clearly failed, noting that, to-date “1,584 bakers have been trained [and] only 151 bakers have been partially equipped.”

Despite this, the country’s bakers are still obliged to pay the N1,000 ($2.78) levy.

AMBCN has asked President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to urgently address the high price of commodities like sugar and flour, which cost more in Nigeria in comparison to other African countries.

For example, 50kg of flour in Tanzania comes with a price tag of N4,500 ($12.51) versus Nigeria’s N11,000 ($30.60).

The association is also calling for the accumulated monies in the CBDF – lodged with the Central Bank of Nigeria – to train and empower 20,000 master bakers in the country.

Okafor said the policy has had a negative effect on bakers across the country and has warned that, should the government fail to address the ABMCN’s requests, the association “will have no option than to withdraw their services nationwide.”

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