Cassava is currently the fourth most important food crop in the world, followed closely by maize, wheat and rice. It is cultivated on over 24 million hectares in 105 countries in the world. Of the countries, Nigeria ranks the largest producer.
Though Nigeria is the largest producer of the root crop, its low average yield per hectare of about 7.7 metric tonnes compared with 23.4 metric tonnes and 22.2 metrics in Indonesia and Thailand, respectively, is still a source of worry to cassava breeders, agronomists and food scientists.
Available data has shown that Nigeria produced 53 million metric tonnes of cassava in the 2018/2019 season, and out of this, over 90 per cent of it was processed into food for human consumption, but a huge industrial demand exists for the output of processed cassava, primarily as substitutes for imported raw materials and semi-finished products.
With huge production potential and competitive advantage in cultivation, experts believe the country can grow and diversify the economy through industrialisation of the cassava roots to produce raw materials being imported by the ancillary industry users.
However, new commercial plantations should be established to take care of industrial demands for ethanol, starch, cassava flour and sweeteners. New plantations are imperative, according to Professor Kolawole Adebayo, former Regional Coordinator of Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (CAVA) projects.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, during a meeting with cassava producing states and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria Cassava Growers Association and large-scale cassava processors last year, said: “Economic diversification is an essential tool for national development and we are leaving no stone unturned towards repositioning Nigeria on the map of the world, not just as the leading cassava producer but a processor as well.”
Emefiele had said compared with any other country, Nigeria has one of the best climates and land resources to produce and process sufficient cassava not only for consumption but also for industrial uses and export.
On the gap and demand that exists in the nation’s cassava value chain, the CBN governor said the demand for High-Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) in bread, biscuits and snacks is above 500,000 tonnes yearly, while supply is below 15,000 tonnes. The demand for cassava starch is above 300,000 tonnes, while supply is below 10,000 tonnes yearly.
Also, demand for cassava-based constituents in sugar syrup is above 350,000tonnes, while supply is almost non-existent and potential demand for ethanol in Nigeria as a fuel for cooking, to power vehicles (E10), and other industrial uses exceed one billion litres, while production is nearly zero.
“It was on this premise that we included cassava in the FX exclusion list to salvage the industry, encourage farmers to go back to their farms to boost jobs creation and increase output and improve the capacity utilisation of our processing companies,” he had said.
However, Professors Adebayo and Sanni Leteef said industrialisation of cassava is hampered by poor farm mechanistion for higher yields per hectare; inadequate power supply; multiple demands for the crop, in competition for food need and unfriendly business and policy environments.
Cassava industrialisation strategy
Deepening cassava’s the production and value chain for economic growth and development require certain fundamentals. They include production and productivity techniques, industrialisation and import substitution strategy.
President, International Society for Tropical Root Crops and the Project Manager, IITA’s Building Economically Sustainable Cassava Seed Systems (BASICS-II), Prof Sanni, advocates integrated production and processing for cassava farmers and processors.
He advised: “The concept of integration is to share your overhead cost because utilities and infrastructure are major key elements in financing farming. So, how would you share from that cost? It is when you integrate crops with livestock, or you have two or three crops. When you have only one crop like cassava, you have two to three products. If you produce garri, produce instant fufu flour. Then, learn more and move to food-grade starch.”
He explained that Nestle Plc needs nothing less than 7,000 tonnes of food-grade starch and 10,000 tonnes of high-quality cassava flour, saying, “I have not talked about ethanol industry and about pharmaceutical industry needs. The pharmaceutical industries now need starch, and CBN is assisting processors so they can produce pharmaceutical starch.”
On increasing productivity per hectare despite climate change and other challenges, Prof. Sanni recommended that farmers should plant drought-tolerant cassava varieties. Two, he said emplacing irrigation facilities is becoming more imperative, no matter how small.
“In Israel, drip irrigation is their best farming technology and is giving them precision agriculture, increasing their productivity and enhancing their capacity to sustain food production. So, Nigeria needs to learn from other countries and there is the need for us to learn it,” he explained.
He, however, lamented that despite the huge opportunities in cassava flour as a substitute in wheat, the enabling policy is still “sleeping.” Some people are diversifying now because of the pandemic because when you could not get quality wheat, you have to blend with something. Professionally, that is ongoing, but they will not want to say it out.”
Also, President, Nigeria Cassava Grower Association, Mr Segun Adewumi, emphasised five very major industrial derivatives that the country could maximize to safe the economy, and one of them is ethanol.
The ethanol that Nigeria consumes in wine and alcoholic drinks costs over N400 billion yearly and over 90 per cent of it is imported.
“Pharmaceuticals all over the world prefer cassava starch and certainly, we import almost 17 million metric tonnes of it at a very great cost. And we import over 90 per cent of the starch we use in pharmaceuticals, soap production and so many products,” Adewumi said.
He said if Nigeria substitutes wheat with cassava flour in bread, the country would save about N250 billion every year, just with about 20 per cent inclusion in only bread.
“At my last count, we use about 15,000 metric tonnes of flour and 20 per cent of that would be 3000 tonnes of cassava flour. We will be saving close to N300 billion every year,” he added.
On employment generation along the cassava value chain, Adewumi said cassava could replace oil, give more revenue to the country and create more job opportunities than in the oil and gas sector.
“Incidentally, these products are raw materials to other essential utility items with limitless market potential. This is to say cassava can trigger an industrial revolution in Nigeria and can actually change the narrative of the Nigerian economy,” he added.
CBN interventions in cassava value chain
Part of the strategic approach to deepening cassava industrialisation for all-inclusive growth is adequate financing of cultivation and processing at the small and medium-scale levels. However, this has remained a perennial challenge.
The CBN, in one of its publications recently, said in 2019, it sponsored about 15,000 farmers to cultivate over 15,000 hectares of cassava farmland in 19 states in its efforts to use cultivation of 10 crops to create 10 million jobs in five years.
How have the CBN interventions stimulated industrial growth, productivity and value chain growth, and food security? Have the interventions been helping cassava farmers and processors to maximise profitability? Can cassava actually create employment opportunities and help diversify the economy if deepened and enhanced with adequate financing? What specifics in the cassava chain should the CBN interventions focus on? And many more probes are what The Guardian sought from cassava growers, processors and other stakeholders.
Adewumi of the Nigeria Cassava Grower Association disclosed to The Guardian that “the CBN has actually taken very good steps to revitalise cassava production in Nigeria. There are two programmes that are on with the CBN. The first one is the conventional one hectare per farmer. That was to increase its cultivation by one hectare. That is, if the cassava farmer had been doing two or three hectares, CBN increased his capacity by additional one hectare.
“It has provided funds, inputs like fertiliser and herbicides for land preparation and stems. The first thing the CBN provided for us in 2019/2020 was 14,000 hectares for farmers, then the second one that they have just approved is 46,000 hectares.”
He explained further that the bank has, for the current season, come up with the idea of ‘Five Star,’ a new strategy that implies one farmer would be given money to do five hectares in a contagious farm within the good location so that many farmers could cultivate thousands of hectares through mechanisation.
Farm mechanisation, as argued by the majority of the stakeholders, is one of the ways to rev up productivity per hectare, reduce the cost of production and make the cost of the roots reasonable to industrial processors.
“So, lack of rainfalls from July to September created a little setback. … But we may not be able to do much this year because of the shortness of time and we don’t want to take the risk of planting when the rains would stop. So, that one will gather momentum seriously early March 2021,” Adewumi said.
1,065 young cassava farmers get ABS N234,590,745 in Ogun
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to boost production, the CBN/state government, through a Wema Bank/Nigeria Cassava Growers Association partnership in the Ogun State Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABS), has linked the third batch of young 1,065 cassava farmers to credits of N234,590,745, translating to N220,273 per farmer across the 20 local councils of the state.
The fund, according to the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Samson Odedina, was disbursed on October 8, 2020. These farmers would also be linked to inputs, such as herbicides, agrochemicals and improved planting materials, mechanization services and guaranteed markets.
“This third batch release is for young people whom the Governor of Ogun State, Prince (Dr) Dapo Abiodun, had approved land clearing for in nine locations, namely Apojola, Odeda LGA; Asa, Ewekoro LGA; Ojoowo/Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu North LGA; Omogbawojo, Odogbolu LGA; Pagbonrin, Imeko-Afon LGA; Itoro, Yewa South LGA; Ojere Village, Obafemi Owode LGA; Ikenne Dairy Farm, Ikenne LGA; and Obafemi Town, Obafemi Owode LGA,” he said.
He explained that the release would be utilised by beneficiaries to fund cost items and other operations, according to the Economics of Production (EOP) and other terms of the facility as approved by the CBN and the farmers’ organisations.
The move, Odedina added, is part of the resolve of the state to link farmers to farm financiers, land, inputs, technologies and assured markets, which are all capable of boosting job creation, deepening food and raw material production and utilisation, and overall economic growth and development.
He said the additional 1,065 jobs bring to a total of 4,462 jobs created under the cassava value chain intervention in the Ogun State ABP scheme for 2020.
Other registered farmers, including young people, who are yet to be linked to facilities under the scheme are advised to update only with the state ministry of agriculture.