Harnessing The Untapped Potential Of Cassava To Revamp Economy

Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with an average production of over 45 million metric tons which amounts to about 20 per cent of global cassava production.

Cassava which has countless raw materials in the recent past have served as food for families especially in the rural areas, as the popular garri and fufu are produced from cassava and other products which form the basic daily food of Nigerians.

Being the largest producer of cassava in the world, Nigeria is yet to add more value to cassava production, as the majority of cassava produced in the country is basically used as food item domestically.

It is at this backdrop that successive government have tried to add value to cassava production through the introduction of cassava flour in bread baking and other confectionery.

This cassava flour adoption is being implemented cross the country but the demand of cassava for this initiative was still very poor, as farmers still have their products decaying in the soil without patronage.

In Nigeria, about 12 states produce cassava in large quantity, the states include Imo, Anambra, Kogi, Cross River, Enugu, Ogun, Ondo, Taraba, Benue, Delta, and Edo, though it can be cultivated in other states of Nigeria but in smaller quantities.

Cassava has been proven to be economically viable with countless raw materials that if explored to the fullest, it is has the potential of inject over N20 trillion into the nation’s economy.

The major raw materials of cassava, Starch, Flour, ethanol and sweetener are used in large quantity in Nigeria by manufactures, but sadly, a larger quantity of these raw materials are imported by these manufacturers because the local processors does not meet up with the supply.

Cassava production in Nigeria is faced with many challenges which has discouraged farmers from planting and also discourages processors from continuing in the business.

Successive governments have tried in adding value to cassava production by encouraging bakers to add about 20 per cent of cassava flour while baking bread and other confectionery.

This move actually yielded result with the training of master bakers by the government and the release of special N10 billion fund by the government to support cassava farmers’ processors and the master bakers.

Unfortunately, the cassava bread policy was abandoned after the government that initiated it left power, the succeeding government did a policy somersault and the cassava flour policy died.

Currently, the National requirement for cassava flour is 650,000 tons per annum, and a ton of cassava flour is sold for about N150,000, which sums up the market for cassava flour in Nigeria at N97 billion.

This N97 billion would have been resting in the pockets of farmers, processor, bakers and others operating at the value chain, but because of lack of support from government and stakeholders, farmers cannot produce enough cassava to supply to factories to process cassava.

In the case where farmers supply enough cassava to these processors, lack of infrastructure like access road, poor power supply and other infrastructural deficit becomes an impediment to these processors.

Another raw material from cassava that is of industrial importance is the starch. It is said that Nigerian cassava produces the best starch in the world, but Manufacturers in the country prefers to buy imported starch.

Imported starch is sold for about N150,000 per ton, while the locally processed starch is sold for about N220,000 per ton, this is exactly why manufacturers prefers to patronize the imported starch instead of its local counterpart.

Infrastructural deficit as mentioned earlier has been a major contributory factor to why the locally processed starch is more expensive than the imported starch.

A processor, Goke Adeyemi, the chairman of Harvest Feed and Agro company, said the price discrepancy between the local and imported starch has been a major problem facing the starch processors in the country.

He said in their last meeting with the federal government Economic Growth Recovery Plan (ERGP) team, they suggested that the import duty on starch should be reviewed upwards in order to allow the locally processed starch to compete favorably.

Currently, importers of starch are charged 5 per cent to 10 per cent import duty, which still makes them sell starch at a very low price, compared to local manufacturers who are faced with many challenges in clouding infrastructure deficit and difficulty is sourcing raw materials, which makes them produce at a very high cost, thereby making their products more expensive than the imported starch.

At the Economic Recovery Growth Plan meeting (ERGP) which held between March and April last year, the local processors of starch asked the government to increase the import duty on imported starch to 40 per cent to 60 per cent to enable the local producers compete favorably.

But after 10 months since the Federal Government promised to review the import adjustment tax for imported starch which is targeted at encouraging local manufacturers of starch across the country, nothing has been done.

Adeyemi said “So far we are still on promises, there were few updates from the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) Focus Lab team that the procedures for doing the import adjustment tax has gone through several committees, the last one was what they called the Technical Tariff Committee (TTC), and they have made recommendations to the Federal Government, so it will increase import tax on imported starch, but so far, we have to gotten any concrete thing, but we are waiting and hopeful that in the course of time we will be able to get feedback from the government.

“The imported starch is dealing a very heavy blow on the locally produced starch, many of the industries have gone ahead to fill their pipeline with imported starch at the detriment of the locally produced starch, and that is negatively impacting, even in the economy recovery plan of the Federal Government, I think we need to act fast”, he said”.

Currently, Nigeria’s annual requirement for starch is about 600,000 tons, and a ton is sold for N220,000, that means the annual value of starch in the Nigerian market is N132 billion.

Unfortunately, a large chunk of this N132 billion is exported to other countries through the continued importation of starch which can be processed locally if enabling environment is made available by the government for both the farmers and processors.

Another vital raw material of cassava is ethanol, which our National requirement annually is about 600,000 tons. Some countries now use ethanol to power automobiles instead of petrol.

A ton of ethanol is sold for about N360,000 with our annual requirement at 600,000 tons, which means the annual market value of ethanol in Nigeria is N216 billion. But regrettably, Nigeria imports more than have of ethanol used in the country due to poor supply from local processors.

But recently, companies are springing up especially in Ogun State with the target of bridging the ethanol supply deficit in the country, but without the assistance from the government to ensure that farmers produce enough cassava to supply to the companies, the efforts may not yield desired result.

The National President of Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA, Pastor Segun Adewumi said is yet to see the potentials in cassava that is why little attention is given to the value chain.

“I think the government is yet to see the potentials in cassava, we are calling their attention now, because cassava can actually give us more money than oil.

“What we import to Nigeria which we can use cassava to do is worth more than N3 trillion, we can get ethanol from cassava, but we spend over N800 billion annually importing it, also starch and other raw materials used by beverage companies can be sourced locally from cassava, also the pharmaceutical companies. But these companies import industrial starch instead of patronizing the locally processed ones”, Pastor Adewumi said.

The Nigerian government has a lot to do in the agriculture especially cassava mechanization to assist farmers to produce enough cassava as raw materials for processing factories.

Policies should be put in place by the government to encourage patronage of locally processed cassava products and also discourage the importation of these processed cassava which can be sourced locally.

The cassava value chain alone is capable of revamping the Nigerian economy, create jobs and discourage the over dependence on oil, which could also be exported and earn forex for farmer and processors.

Source: TRIBUNE

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