Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world; thrice more than Brazil’s production and almost double the production of Indonesia and Thailand.
Even cassava production in other African countries, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, appears small in comparison to Nigeria’s substantial output.
Despite being the world’s largest cassava producer, it is a big shame that Nigeria still spends a whopping N2 trillion in foreign exchange to import products that can be derived from cassava. Cassava byproducts still being imported into Nigeria include ethanol, industrial starch, glucose syrup, bread flour, sweetener, etc. Incidentally, these products are said to be raw materials to numerous utility items with limitless domestic and export market potential.
This is to say that cassava project can trigger massive industrial revolution across Nigeria. It can fully engage millions of farmers, skilled and unskilled factory workers, according to Nigeria Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria (NCGAN).
For instance, Nigeria spends N500 billion to import ethanol and over N400 billion to import industrial starch, which could be processed and sourced locally. Stakeholders have argued that this level of import could pose great threat to economic diversification of the Federal Government.
Reports shows that cassava farmers are facing challenges of glut as most of their produce are rotting away due to their inability to get off-takers for their product and lack of processing facilities to process the commodity into domestic and industrial products.
About six weeks ago, it was revealed that a tonne of cassava sold for N37,000 but right now it is around N17,000 in Oyo State, N20,000 in Ondo State and N22,000 in Ogun State. With this trend, it will crash to N15,000 in the next two weeks.
On farmers’ plight (the three yearly glut circle), the cost of producing a tonne is about N14,000. Harvesting and loading of a tonne is charged between N3,000 and N4,000 while transportation to the factory costs between N5,000 and N8,000 depending on the distance of the factory site.
The above implies that rather than making profit, the loss of the farmer is around N8,000 from every tonne of cassava sold at N17,000. Most farmers usually leave their cassava to rot because the cost of harvesting and delivery surpasses the value of the cassava. This is the plight of cassava farmers because of the (three-four) yearly glut circle. During the years of scarcity, farmers rush to cultivate and that leads to glut in the year that follows.
Farmers said with the failure to harness the crop properly, Nigeria is still not having industrial cassava, which is regarded as a money-spinner in the international market.
Investigation revealed that solution to the predicament of cassava farmers and indeed, revitalisation of Nigeria’s economy with cassava, is not farfetched, though there is need for establishment for cassava processing facilities across Nigeria.
Farmers said that industrial cassava products could generate over N15 trillion, which is double what oil can generate, if government devotes five million hectares of the 82 arable land to the production of additional cassava and establish adequate processing facilities to off-take cassava.
As part of solution to tackle importation of cassava products, farmers told Daily Sun that, “for seven years, a levy of 15 per cent additional import duty on white wheat was provided for cassava bread project. This has accumulated to hundreds of billions. We suppose that if 20 units of 250 metric tonnes capacity cassava flour mills are provided from the fund, and if the Bank of Industry (BoI) releases fund meant for already existing cassava processing factories, we can have 7,000 metric tonnes daily additional market for our cassava.”
It was also revealed that N1.2 billion deposited with BoI for cottage cassava industries, which was meant to create market for cassava since 2009 has not been disbursed. Incidentally, members of NCGAN are some of the victims that deposited the mandatory N500,000 for accessing the fund with Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development since March 11, 2015 but till date, nothing came out of the programme.
The association recently wrote a letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, to notify him of the situation and to know what cassava farmers are going through in the country.
The National President, NCGAN, Pastor Segun Adewumi, said the association has spoken consistently about the issues facing cassava farmers to the government but that nothing has been done to alleviate their problems.
According to him, cassava can give Nigeria more money than oil but the government is not taking action. He added that Nigeria currently spends almost over N500 billion to import ethanol and over N400 billion to import industrial starch in one year.
Adewumi said it may interest Nigerians to know that glucose syrup and other raw materials used in Coca Cola and other beverages can be made from cassava.
He explained: “Sometimes, we have a glut in the market of cassava. The thing is that the farmer will plant and there are no off-takers to process it to other products like ethanol and industrial starch, which we are importing. That is the irony we have. It is a big shame. Cassava was scarce until about three months ago. Last year, people did not plant due to glut. The year cassava is scarce people will go and plant; the second year, there is a glut because there are no off-takers. The problem is lack of processing facility.”
Speaking on how the importation of the products can be tackled, he said government should provide enabling environment for processors to thrive so that they can off-take cassava to meet the need of Nigerian cassava byproducts users.
He said some cassava products are raw materials to other utility items like ethanol, which is a raw material to pharmaceutical and alcoholic companies such as the Nigerian Brewery and others, adding that cassava can trigger massive industrial programme but unfortunately government is not working on it.
He stated: “We’ve got everything. My association got a series of land like 10,000 hectares and 5,000 hectares, just to get investors to come and invest in processing companies so we can plant cassava for them but Nigeria’s business environment does not allow any investor to come in because there is no friendly investment environment in Nigeria.”