BY Brenna Matendere
INDUSTRY experts have roundly discredited the proposal presented to Cabinet last week by a Gweru farmer who claimed that he could produce a standard loaf of bread using locally-produced wheat alone.
The farmer, Douglas Kwande made headlines after making claims that he produces 500 loaves of bread a day from locally-produced wheat without having to blend with imported wheat; raising the excitement of government which immediately said it had found relief from the demands of forex by grain millers wishing to import wheat from outside the country.
A number of leading retail supermarkets in Gweru told NewsDay that they relied on the traditional suppliers.
“The local wheat flour is good, but it does not reach the desired quality. For example, it is dense. In other words it is heavy. Its own quality, therefore, must be improved by wheat from outside the country mostly countries in Europe like Lithuania which have high quality wheat,” said Hardlife Mamuse, a Gweru-based baker who has been in the trade for over 19 years.
He also added that the call for wholly-local grain bread cannot be sustained because the country does not produce adequate quantities of white wheat.
“I do not know if it is because of climatic conditions or what, but what I can confirm is that as a country we mainly produce brown wheat for brown bread. There is very low production of white wheat and actually I am not aware of farmers who produce white wheat. It’s imported, so if we say the country can rely on local wheat only, there will be serious shortages of white bread,” he said.
A brands manager for a retail chain, Abel Chikanya, reiterated that it was impossible to produce quality standard bread using local wheat alone.
“We are not saying local wheat is sub-standard. However, it needs to be blended. Actually, at our internal bakery, we used to blend local wheat flour and imported one on a 50:50 scale during our peak. The bread will be high quality only when blending is done,” he said.
Commenting on the issue, a food scientist Tafadzwa Marufu reiterated that relying on local wheat would compromise the quality of bread.
“It is certainly possible to make bread using our local wheat, but the main concern there would be the quality of the product. The quality of bread to any individual is all about flavour. Understanding the formation of bread flavour arises in part from the fermentation processes and in part from the complex interactions between the baking heat and the recipe to use with our local wheat”.
In previous statements, National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe (NBAZ) president Ngoni Mazango mentioned the need for imported inputs particularly wheat in the production of bread.
“The imported inputs in the bread manufacturing and distribution processes have recorded the highest increases, at times exceeding 500%, among other imported items, which have increased drastically,” he said then.
An official at Bakers Inn, who requested not to be named, said they used up to seven imported ingredients to produce their standard loaf and emphasised that they also blend local and foreign wheat flour.
“In as far as wheat is concerned, the locally-produced one cannot go alone. There is need to balance with that which is imported for quality bread. If you do not do that, even the taste itself and the outlook of the bread will be terrible. Again, most of the ingredients that we use are all imported. These are enzymes, baking fats, improvers, gluten, calcium, kwiklocks, premix,” he said.
Investigations revealed that Kwande’s major clients in Gweru were mostly dealers along the city’s densely populated down town area.
Kwenda’s bread has also been a hit with travellers at Gweru’s Kudzanayi long distance bus terminus.
Other sources indicated that the product was often spotted in gold mining communities such as Wonderer Mine, Arizona, King Kobra, Dam Bridge and Wozoli where panners was short on options of food supplies.
Kwande insisted, in brief responses, that his bread was of high standard and made from locally-produced wheat alone. He also emphasised that he does not understand views that no bread could be of standard value without blending with imported wheat flour, adding his business was actually thriving.
“I will call you when we open a new bakery for another story, in four weeks’ time,” he said.
The businessman, in his presentation to Cabinet, urged government to encourage production of wholly-local wheat bread saying he had done that for two years.