Not by Bread Alone

Howat, G. R. (1971-11-30)


The growth in the consumption of bread, in the past ten years is associated with its convenience both in urban and in rural conditions. Bread is in fact the prime example of the silent revolution in eating habits that is now in progress in Nigeria. You can buy bread-wrapped bread, too, which is a hygiene plus-over the whole of Nigeria. It is now a regular item of diet of the urban dweller whether in the North or in the sophisticated South. It is eaten by children, by lorry drivers, by nursing mothers, by labourers, by students, indeed the entire range of social classes. Its convenience, its keeping ability ("shelf life" to the food technologist) and its relative cheapness have enabled it to become big business. The figures speak for themselves. In 1965, the value of the imports of wheat and wheat flour and similar products amounted to just over £3.5 million. By 1970, they had increased to £7,979,000, more than one hundred percent. No precise figures are available to indicate how much of this import goes into the baking of bread by professional bakers. One has to bear in mind that there is now a sizeable industry in biscuit production and that domestic and professional catering absorb a significant quantity. If we assume that the bread baking industry accounts for about eighty percent of the total wheat imports this means that for 1970, £6.4 million was used to import flour for bread-making. By any standard that is a lot of foreign currency for one item of food. It is indeed the largest single food import and on the evidence of the past ten years it is likely to become larger still. In such a situation it is inevitable that the minds of food technologists and of statesmen should turn towards import substitution programmes.