Mozambique: UEM mixes wheat and cassava for cheaper bread

Maputo / MZ. (aim) The University Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), largest higher education institution in Mozambique, has successfully conducted a study on using a mixture of wheat and cassava flours to produce bread. According to the «Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique» the study was ordered by the government, seeking solutions to the repeated increases in the price of wheat flour by the milling companies, which subsequently increases the price of bread.

The results of the first study approved a mixture of 7,5 kilograms of cassava flour for every 42,5 kilos of wheat flour. The researchers found that the resulting bread has the same characteristics of that made of wheat flour only, with the advantage that the new type offers better guarantees of conservation.

Happy with these results, the study group increased the proportion of cassava to 25 percent – 12,5 kilos of cassava flour to 37,5 kilos of wheat flour. The idea is to advance to a type of bread that is at least 60 percent cassava flour and only 40 percent wheat flour.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Venancio Massingue, met now with representatives of the milling companies, bakers, researchers and other food specialists to present publicly the project and ask for the necessary support from the bakers, who must be persuaded to adopt the new type of bread. The cassava-wheat-mixture has already been approved by the health services.

Massingue explained that the idea of seeking alternative types of bread, in response to rising international wheat prices, was first advanced by President Armando Guebuza in May, during a meeting of the government. «After that, we called a meeting of the Science and Technology Council, that quickly started work in the field».

UEM Engineering Faculty research director Carlos Lucas, who heads the working group, explained that the experiment was undertaken in three bakeries, selected on the basis of a questionnaire circulated to bakers in Maputo and Matola concerning the quantity of bread they produce and the complexity of their equipment.

After the proven success of the mixture of the wheat and cassava flours (the new type of bread was tested by 500 people), the idea is to advance to other experiments, with maize meal and soy bean flour.

Mozambique imports almost all the wheat it consumes. Only on the Angonia plateau, in the western province of Tete, is a small amount of wheat grown. But cassava is the most abundant staple in the country, and it should not be difficult to increase cassava production to meet demand from bakers.

Despite Massingue´s insistence on knowing whether or not the bakers are prepared to produce this new type of bread, the response was lukewarm. Far from enthusiastically rising to the challenge of producing a healthy product using Mozambique´s own raw materials, conservative bakers preferred to lament the lack of home-grown wheat.

Victor Manuel of the Maputo Bakers Association said the most important measures that could be taken would be for the University to increase the production of wheat in Mozambique, taking advantage of potential which he alleged exists in various parts of the country. (In fact, the climatic conditions in most of Mozambique are not propitious for wheat).

The millers also said that they need some time before they can give any informed answer on their real capacity to embark on this project.

The researchers believe that the country has enough cassava flour to produce the new bread. The only problem they saw was the lack of any tradition in the urban centres of eating bread made from anything other than wheat.