Making it big in cassava farming

Cassava is among the popular staple foods grown in Nigeria and has an increasingly diverse use for its products. As a result of its uses, cassava farming is becoming lucrative and offers numerous opportunities to would-be investors. Experts and operators in the business have stated that cassava and its products serve as food to about 90 per cent of Nigerian households. Some of the products from cassava include garri, wheat-flour, animal feed, ethanol for bio-fuels, etc.

According to the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, the increase in Nigeria’s and Africa’s population over the years has made the demand for cassava and its product to rise, a development that has led to higher revenue for farmers. Experts, however, observed that not many farmers or individuals venture into cassava farming because of the lack of adequate skills on how to become successful in this line of work.

They also noted that the lack of capital was another hindrance to many prospective cassava farmers, but explained that the Bank Of Agriculture now gives loan to potential and active farmers. Operators in the sector, however, further stated that a lot of funding was still needed in the cassava value chain in Nigeria to make it more profitable to farmers.

They urged interested cassava farmers to take advantage of the government’s agricultural loans and incentives in order to effectively start up private cassava farms and contribute to the production of cassava in Nigeria.

“Cassava farming is one great farming business to start, because despite the challenges confronting agricultural activities in Nigeria today, cassava products are still in high demand,” said the President, NCGA, Segun Adewumi. Operators stated that for beginners, it might not be rosy at the outset, but stressed that with persistence, the cassava farmer would reap good harvest if he or she adopted the required farming practice for the crop.

They stated that to start a cassava farm, the farmer should try and select a good area with deep well drained loamy soil, adequate rainfall and boasts of warm and moist climatic conditions. According to experienced farmers, cassava grows best in these areas. They explained that to identify lands with these conditions, the farmer should look out for a site with thick vegetation around it, good soil texture, flat or gently sloping.

Adewumi stated that the selection of a good site would help reduce the stress of improving the soil for planting the crop. He , however, noted that if the soil needed improvement, the farmer would have to add manure, prepare good seed beds and might have to plant his cassava along with other crops. To avoid some of these challenges, he said the best option was to choose a good site. “If you choose a good soil, you will not have to go through the pain of improving the soil for planting the cassava stem cuttings,” he said.

Experts also noted that to make good profit as a cassava farmer, one must be able to select the best cassava variety to plant. They further explained that cassava had several breeds, adding that the best breeds should be the ones that were preferred by consumers, because “they give better yields, grow fast and are resistant to pests and diseases.”

Experts stated that selecting the right breed to go with would determine how successful your cassava farm would be. They explained that if the farmer planted what buyers would not be interested in, he might go out of business faster. Adewumi said farmers should be wise enough to select quality cassava stem cuttings in order to harvest rich crops. Experts stated that stem cuttings could be accessed in markets or at prescribed agencies.

According to operators, healthy stem cuttings help to reduce the spread of cassava pests and diseases. They noted that the selected stem cuttings should be planted the right way by ensuring that the land was appropriately tilled. The planting season, the type of seed bed, preparation method, handling and planting of the stem cuttings should be done with precision.

They further advised prospective cassava farmers to understand the perfect costing needs in order to ensure good returns on investment. The farmer should factor land cost and preparation, cost of cassava stem cuttings, fertiliser, carriage bags, insecticides, farm maintenance, labour, etc.

Adewumi stated that Nigeria was among the largest producers of cassava and advised farmers to be able to look for the right market to sell their commodities in order to make good returns. The NCGA president, however, noted that one of the major challenges in the industry that needed the government’s urgent attention was the processing of agricultural commodities like cassava.

He said, “The government should take a critical look at the processing of agricultural products, because this is one major problem confronting farmers. It is not only affecting those of us in the cassava value chain, but also impacting adversely on the activities of players in other arms of the industry.

“We spend up to N3tn annually importing products that are generated from processed cassava. For instance, ethanol is derived from cassava and we spend close to N700bn every year importing this product. Pharmaceutical industries, beverage firms and many others use the processed products from cassava.”

He said Nigeria lacked processing industries that could be used to process the amount of cassava produced across the country, adding that when some investors were wooed to come and establish cassava processing plants, they complained about the high instability of Nigeria’s foreign exchange market.

Adewumi noted that “Nigeria can generate N15tn annually from cassava alone, the Federal Government knows this. The huge amount can be generated if we have the required processing facilities for the commodity and use it more for industrial purposes. It is also important to note that Nigeria is the highest producer of cassava in the world.”

He, however, encouraged cassava farmers not to be discouraged in the production of the crop, adding that there were still prospects in the cultivation of cassava despite the challenges in the country’s agricultural sector.

Source: Punch Newspaper