Why Nigeria must in­vest in cas­sava

Ubar­ni­sa­tion has cre­ated a de­mand for value added cas­sava prod­ucts in the do­mes­tic mar­kets, es­pe­cially in food, bak­ery, cos­met­ics and in­dus­trial use, even as sea­sonal op­por­tu­ni­ties also ex­ist in the re­gional mar­kets

Daily Trust - - FEATURE - By Ahmed Dio Agbo Cas­sava roots

Cas­sava, a sta­ple root crop grown in var­i­ous coun­tries across Africa and other parts of the world, is said to be a poverty re­duc­tion and food se­cu­rity crop. Cas­sava is a house­hold name in Asia, Latin Amer­ica and Thai­land. Thai­land alone is mak­ing a for­tune from cas­sava as the largest ex­porter in the world. Yet, Thai­land pro­duces far less than Nigeria.

Sta­tis­tics from the Na­tional Root Crops Re­search In­sti­tute (NRCRI) in­di­cate that Nigeria is the largest pro­ducer of cas­sava in the world with an an­nual es­ti­mate of 52 mil­lion met­ric tonnes pro­duced on 3.85 mil­lion hectares by about 4.5 mil­lion small­holder farm­ers. How­ever, the do­mes­tic and ex­port po­ten­tials are not yet fully tapped by the govern­ment, pri­vate in­vestors and other stake­hold­ers.

At a re­cent press con­fer­ence in Abuja, Dr. Olu­wole Olu­daise Aina, Chair­man, Gov­ern­ing Board of the Na­tional Root Crops Re­search In­sti­tute based in Umudike, Abia State, stated that “the aver­age out­put in farmer’s fields is about 14 met­ric tonnes per hectare, but in well man­aged farms through the in­tro­duc­tion of im­proved va­ri­eties of cas­sava stems from re­search works of NRCRI in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Trop­i­cal Agri­cul­ture (IITA), out­put could be as high as 60 met­ric tonnes per hectare.”

Since cas­sava has an in­her­ent abil­ity to adapt to mar­ginal en­vi­ron­ments where other crops in­clud­ing wheat are far more risky, high po­ten­tial en­ergy pro­duc­tion per unit land area, high flex­i­bil­ity in man­age­ment and abil­ity to en­ter di­verse mar­kets, Nigeria must take ad­van­tage of this nat­u­ral en­dow­ment to bet­ter its econ­omy, he stated.

Aina said: “No con­ti­nent de­pends as much on root and tu­ber crops in feed­ing its pop­u­la­tion as Africa. In the hu­mid and sub hu­mid ar­eas of trop­i­cal Africa, it is ei­ther a pri­mary sta­ple food or a sec­ondary sta­ple food.”

The board chair­man main­tained that Nigeria can de­rive more ben­e­fits from cas­sava than wheat or some other crops cul­ti­vated in the coun­try due to its greater com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage.

Aina said cas­sava, which can be pro­cessed into a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts such as flour, garri, fufu, chips, pel­lets, starch, etc. for ei­ther hu­man con­sump­tion or in­dus­trial use, has “a lot of com­pet­i­tive in­ter­na­tional prod­ucts” com­pared to wheat and other crops.

List­ing sev­eral rea­sons why the coun­try must place more em­pha­sis on cas­sava pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing and util­i­sa­tion, he said: “Ev­ery part of cas­sava is money – there is no waste in cas­sava, mar­kets for by-prod­ucts and wastes cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for more in­te­grated cas­sava pro­duc­tion sys­tems in Nigeria”.

Nigeria’s great­est strength in cas­sava as listed by Dr. Aina is the “pres­ence of a huge do­mes­tic mar­ket for cas­sava”, fol­lowed by ex­cel­lent cli­mate for grow­ing cas­sava through­out the coun­try and all year round, mil­lions of hectares of suit­able land, and farm­ers’ fa­mil­iar­ity with cas­sava cul­ti­va­tion which is not cum­ber­some.

An­other rea­son given by the board chair­man, which is hu­man ca­pac­ity and health re­lated, is the pres­ence of Re­search and De­vel­op­ment (R&D) in­sti­tu­tions like NRCRI and IITA with a core of well-in­formed and com­pe­tent cas­sava sci­en­tists who have de­vel­oped over 45 im­proved and high yield­ing va­ri­eties in­clud­ing pro vi­ta­min A to com­bat mal­nu­tri­tion among preg­nant women and un­der­age chil­dren.

Favourable govern­ment pol­icy such as pro­tec­tive du­ties on cas­sava com­pet­ing crop prod­uct im­ports like wheat and the planned man­dated 20 to 40% use of cas­sava flour in bread mak­ing and other con­fec­tioner­ies, which has cre­ated a boom­ing cas­sava in­dus­try in the coun­try is also one of the rea­sons why we must in­vest in cas­sava.

Other rea­sons in­clude great sav­ings in for­eign ex­change, cost ad­van­tage, ver­ti­cal in­te­gra­tion, and economies of scale, abun­dant new cas­sava recipes and the high so­cial cost of im­port­ing wheat from abroad as we con­tinue to ex­port our jobs out­side the coun­try.

Aina said ubar­ni­sa­tion has cre­ated a de­mand for value added cas­sava prod­ucts in the do­mes­tic mar­kets, es­pe­cially in food, bak­ery, cos­met­ics and in­dus­trial use, even as sea­sonal op­por­tu­ni­ties also ex­ist in the re­gional mar­kets.

He said build­ing a strong cas­sava pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing in­dus­try will gen­er­ate ru­ral and ur­ban em­ploy­ment and stim­u­late tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment in Nigeria as ob­tains in coun­tries like Brazil, China, In­dia and Thai­land among oth­ers.

Aina said that High Qual­ity Cas­sava Flour (HQCF) fac­tory zones have been iden­ti­fied in the six geopo­lit­i­cal zones to process cas­sava roots into HQCF for hu­man and in­dus­trial use. He added that to en­sure an un­hin­dered sup­ply of HQCF, “govern­ment is re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing all ex­ist­ing small and medium HQCF mills that will pro­duce a to­tal of 160 met­ric tonnes per day.

“Govern­ment is also ac­quir­ing 20 num­bers of 60 MT/day medium scale HQCF mills that will be pro­vided to the pri­vate sec­tor on con­ces­sion and es­tab­lish­ing an­other eight large mills such that by the first quar­ter of 2015 the tar­get of a to­tal of 600,000 MT/year ca­pac­ity of HQCF would have been achieved,” he said.

Aina stated that the govern­ment has also cre­ated a dried cas­sava chips in­dus­try that con­verts highly per­ish­able cas­sava roots into a storable and eas­ily trans­portable com­mod­ity, thereby sta­bil­is­ing cas­sava pro­duc­tion and sup­ply.

He said that pri­vate pro­ces­sors have been selected by the govern­ment to en­hance pro­duc­tion and uti­liza­tion of cas­sava roots, while vil­lage level pro­ces­sors, medi­um­sized pro­ces­sors and farm­ers’ or­ga­ni­za­tions have been en­gaged for part­ner­ship in high qual­ity garri pro­duc­tion.

Starch and flour value chains have been strength­ened and new value chains such as sweet­en­ers and ethanol in­dus­tries are be­ing cre­ated, he said, not­ing that “with all the above in­ter­ven­tions and sup­port, I am bold to say that cul­ti­vat­ing cas­sava in commercial quan­tity is the most prof­itable ven­ture that will en­sure higher re­turns to our farm­ers, cre­ate wealth, re­duce un­em­ploy­ment, re­duce poverty and guar­an­tee food se­cu­rity.”

But checks re­vealed that many farm­ers are not aware of the in­ter­ven­tions, even as over 10 mil­lion farm­ers were said to be cap­tured across the coun­try in 2013. Farm­ers who spoke to Daily Trust main­tained that they were sur­prised that the govern­ment has made some in­ter­ven­tions in the cas­sava value chain, which is yet to make any im­pact on their farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

A cas­sava farmer in Karshi, Nasarawa state, Mr. Dan­ladi Abu told our re­porter that he has not re­ceived any cas­sava stems from the govern­ment and that he toils in his farm us­ing hoe and cut­lass to cul­ti­vate cas­sava, which usu­ally gets wasted due to lack of mar­ket for the fresh pro­duce.

He queried: “The hard labour in the farm is the be­gin­ning of the trou­ble, get­ting the pro­duce from the farm to the mar­ket is a prob­lem, sell­ing at good price is an­other trou­ble, yet the govern­ment is as­sist­ing. When will the ru­ral poor farmer get help?”

Cas­sava farm at Karshi in Karu LGA, Nasarawa state

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