Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world. According to Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO’s, report, cassava production is currently put at about 34 million metric tonnes a year.
Cassava is a perennial woody shrub with an edible root, which grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world and has much ability to withstand difficult growing conditions.
Presently, in Nigeria, cassava is primarily produced for food, especially in the form of Gari, Lafun and Fufu. The crop can also be processed into several secondary products of industrial market value.
These products include chips, pellets, flour, adhesives, alcohol, and starch, which are vital raw materials in the livestock, feed, alcohol/ethanol, textile, confectionery, wood and soft drinks industries.
Despite opportunities inherent in cassava business, it is worrisome that Nigeria does not contribute meaningfully in terms of value added in global trade which could have contributed greatly to foreign exchange earnings and industrial growth.
According to the National President, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, NCGA, Mr. Segun Adewunmi, the country could generate over twenty trillion naira from cassava within a year if well harnessed and could also be used to trigger industrial revolution and solve Nigeria’s economic problems.
Mr. Adewunmi also noted that the country spends over 600 billion naira yearly to import ethanol and starch, cassava derivatives that could be processed locally.
Nigeria alone produces over 10 million metric tonnes of cassava per annum. Unfortunately, most of our farmers, businessmen, investors and industrialists are unaware of the investment opportunities which the cassava industry offers, unlike their counterparts in developed nations.
For instance, many European and American countries, including Germany, UK, France and Netherlands demand huge quantities of processed cassava products annually, which means that over 10 million metric tonnes of cassava is needed per annum, in those countries.
Those countries, apart from using cassava for livestock feeds, also use processed cassava as industrial raw material for the production of adhesives, bakery products, dextrin, dextrose glucose, lactose and sucrose. Dextrin is used as a binding agent in the paper and packing industry and adhesive in cardboard, plywood and veneer binding.
Food and beverage industries use cassava products derivatives in the production of jelly caramel and chewing gum. Pharmaceutical and chemical industries also use cassava alcohol (ethanol) in the production of cosmetics and drugs.
To reposition exportation opportunities of cassava production, government should pay more attention to cassava production because if well harnessed, it could take over from crude oil which is the present major revenue earner for the country.
Government and wealthy individuals should set up mechanised industries that will utilise cassava production.
Federal and state governments should provide more lands for farmers to boost mechanised cassava farming as this is needed to meet up with international best practices.
Financial assistance in form of loans and grants should be made more accessible to, genuine cassava farmers.
Revitalisation of farm settlement scheme with functional modern facilities should be looked into to encourage more people especially youths into cassava farming.