Maximising economic benefits of cassava production

THE PUNCH- Ifeanyi Onuba

Agriculture remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy as it contributes about 45 per cent to the country‘s Gross Domestic Product.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Sayyadi Abba-Ruma, the sector employs up to two-thirds of the country‘s total labour force and provides the livelihood for about 90 per cent of the rural population.

Indeed, Nigeria ‘s huge rural agriculture resource base offers great potential for growth especially for the poor rural populace who are predominantly agrarian.

For instance, cassava production in Nigerian, which is by far the largest in the world, is three times more than what is currently being produced in Brazil and almost double the production of Indonesia and Thailand .

Its production in other African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana , Madagascar , Mozambique , Tanzania and Uganda appears small in comparison to Nigeria ‘s substantial output.

The United Nation‘s Food and Agriculture Organisation gave credence to this when it estimated that cassava production in Nigeria is above 34 million tonnes.

Comparing the output of various crops in Nigeria , the FAO ranked cassava production first, followed by yam, Sorghum, millet and rice production.

Expansion of cassava production has been relatively steady since 1980 with an additional push between 1988 till date owing to the improved research by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.

Since IITA‘s intervention, cassava production in Cross River , Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta have dominated other states in the South South region.

Similarly, Ogun, Ondo and Oyo states dominated in the South West, while Enugu and Imo dominated production in the South East.

For the North West , Kaduna is the only state producing cassava on a large scale.

Indeed, experts say, cassava enthusiasts are in for an exciting time in Nigeria and across Africa owing to its huge demand.

They argue that since African Heads of State and Governments have agreed to make agriculture a top priority by raising budgetary allocations by 10 per cent to the sector within the next five years, huge opportunities abound for investors in the sector.

However, they say that the initiative for achieving this should be based on a transformation strategy that emphasises market penetration, collective action, private sector participation, and research.

In Nigeria , cassava is one of the staple foods and since it takes a longer time to mature, it is not normally grown alone. It is grown together with other crops such as maize and melon.

Cassava cultivation and processing in Nigeria depends on the area of the county where it is cultivated.

For instance, it is profitably grown in the Southern part of the country between the month of June and August.

Speaking on the benefits of cassava production, an expert, Mr. Jumbo Godspower, says that the federal government‘s initiatives for the sector has transformed and commercialised the industry in Nigeria .

He says, ”Cassava has boundless potentials for job and wealth creation, foreign exchange earnings, and household food security. More importantly, the introduction of the policy of 10 per cent cassava flour inclusion in bread and other confectionery has created wide window of investment opportunities.

”The policy, if earnestly implemented, will generate additional six million jobs in the industry. Other areas of viable investment include chips and pellets for animal feeds, starch for pharmaceutical, oil drilling, battery, beverage and textile industries. The greatest untapped potential is the ethanol production from cassava for use as fuel and substitute for petrol.”

Godspower notes that despite the huge potentials in cassava production, the estimated 20 to 30 per cent post harvest losses in root and tuber crops, makes the need for creating appropriate technology for waste minimisation imperative.

This according to him is another investment window that could be explored.

He says, ”Lack of cost effective processing and on-farm storage equipment is responsible for this unacceptable level of wastage. The need to package our products to meet international standard cannot be over-emphasised. Standard packaging prolongs the shelf life of products and assists in value addition for better income.”

He adds that other advantages that will accrue from appropriate technology include increased productivity and income to farmers and processors, job creation, food security, saved foreign exchange, and enhanced competitiveness at the international markets.

He says that to achieve the desired objectives, the technology must be simple, users friendly and cost effective.

”It must have very high percentage of local content for sustainability. It must be capable of reducing drudgery and also be less cumbersome in operation. Therefore, appropriate technology should centre on production, processing, storage and packaging stages,” he adds.


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