Facing High Wheat Prices, Nigerian Bakers Turn to Potato Puree
Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: Premium Times
Organisation size: Big
Publication date: 2022-07-14
Authors: Ronald Adamolekun
Ronald is a financial journalist at Premium Times and has been writing professionally since 2015, beginning as a freelance book reviewer at Wasafiri Magazine London before switching to copywriting and then journalism. At Premium Times, he covers the capital market beat and analyses Corporate Nigeria, especially the financial performance of quoted companies, their releases and the latest developments in the equity market. He is a grantee of the Pulitzer Center.
Among his passions as a financial journalist are stories exploring crisis situations in the economy, which he often explores using data journalism and statistical tools to make projections where necessary.
The story is the fruit of months of intense research, interviews and studies about how Nigerian bakers are adopting the puree from a new breed of potato called orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) in bread-making as a cheap, timely intervention in mitigating steep costs of baking materials. The development is coming at a time food inflation is hitting record highs and the costs of wheat are forcing many bakeries to shut down.
That is compelling bakers to improvise various foods from the nutrition-dense spud that is making affordable innovative food products available to low-income Nigerian households.
The report is having a far-reaching impact in combating food insecurity in Nigeria, which spends the largest part of its annual food import bill on wheat. Maryann Okoli, who runs the bakery that produces the most OFSP bread in Nigeria and who was the main baker that was interviewed for the reporting project, said she was inundated with calls from all over Nigeria after the report was published. Bakers grappling with steep costs of baking materials contacted her and requested she arrange training sessions for them where they could learn several foods that could be innovated from OFSP puree. Okoli, through her training sessions, is helping create awareness of the health benefits of the potato and its products, the impact that could have in boosting profitability in the baking/confectionery business and how innovations in the OFSP value chain could help keep bakers in business at a time a good number of them are going under. Within weeks of publishing the report, BBC Africa contacted us at PREMIUM TIMES, asking us to link them up with Okoli with a view to doing a documentary on her OFSP bread and her other efforts in enhancing the potato’s value addition. She later said the BBC was firming up plans to produce the documentary.
Schools in Nigeria are including both OFSP bread and porridge made from the potato in their school feeding programmes in an effort to provide affordable nutrition to pupils.
World-renowned economist and Johns Hopkins University scholar Professor Steve Hanke shared and referenced the story on Twitter while making commentary on inflation in Ghana. The International Potato Center also shared the story on its website.
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