Report: How to Boost Nigeria’s Cassava Production

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For Nigeria to be a key player in the global market and maximise its potential as the world’s largest cassava producer, a report has stressed the need for the commodity to be processed into industrial raw materials and livestock feeds. 

This, according to the latest economic bulletin of the Financial Derivatives Company Limited (FDC), requires improving access to quality seedlings and developing the cassava processing industry through an integrated seed system and the encouragement of public-private partnership. 

According to the FDC, a developed cassava value chain would increase the country’s revenue by at least 15 per cent and assist the government in its revenue diversification efforts. 

It would also increase employment as more labour would be needed, it added.

Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with an annual production of 59.49million metric tons in 2017. 

This represents approximately 20 per cent of global production and a 37 per cent increase in the last decade.

The commodity is grown in virtually all states in Nigeria, although it thrives in the north-central and south-south states such as Edo, Benue, Kogi, Cross River, Imo and Rivers. 

However, the report pointed out that despite being the world leader in production, the country’s position in the global cassava market was insignificant. “Cassava remains a basic rural and urban staple, mainly processed into foods such as garri, lafu and fufu to meet the needs of Nigeria’s growing population. 

“Little has been done to make it commercially viable to serve industrial purposes. Processing cassava into flour and industrial products accounts for just 10 per cent of total cassava output. 

“This is minute compared to countries such as Brazil, where processing accounts for 85 per cent of output and Thailand, where it accounts for 95 per cent,” it explained.

According to the FDC, Nigeria’s inability to meet its industrial demand led to an increase in the importation of commodities such as starch, chips, syrups and ethanol. 

It stated that the import bill on cassava by-products had been as high as $650 million annually.

Therefore, it noted that given the deficiency in domestic industrial supply as well as increasing global demand, especially in Asia, it was expedient that Nigeria steps up its game to explore the new business opportunities. 

For the country to harness its potential in the production of this commodity, it was important that cassava production also becomes an industrial raw material and livestock feed, it stressed.

“For this to be achieved, Nigeria needs an integrated seed system, a developed cassava processing industry and policies to encourage public-private partnership. “These steps could significantly position the country in the global market and serve as a means to diversify the country’s revenue base and boost economic growth. 

“However, a new disease known as the ‘Cassava Brown Streak Disease’ has been recently confirmed to be ravaging East Africa – Tanzania, DRC, Kenya and Mozambique and it is gradually finding its way into West Africa. 

“Therefore, in addition to improved seedlings and storage facilities, efforts need to be geared towards preventing its outbreak into Nigeria for the country to remain the world’s largest producer. 

“An outburst of this disease will reduce cassava output, thus increasing the price of commodities such as garri (a major staple), fufu and lafu,” it explained.

Furthermore, the report pointed out that the key areas that needed urgent attention in the cassava industry were low quality seedlings and processing challenges, noting that despite being the world leader in production, Nigeria ranks 98th in cassava yield. 

“Cassava farming is dominated by small scale farmers who do not have access to quality seedlings. To improve cassava yield, it is important to improve access to quality seeds and transition from subsistence to commercial production. “Scaling the adoption of quality seedlings requires a sustainable and efficient integrated seed system, combining both formal and informal systems.  

“The formal seed system is a structured one that involves a chain of activities leading to clear products – ‘certified seed of verified varieties’. 

“It ensures that the seeds produced are of optimal physical, physiological and sanitary quality. A major challenge of this system is that officially recognised seed outlets are limited in number. 

“This creates a role for an informal seed system, locally organised, in which the farmers access seed directly from their harvest or through exchange by barter from friends, neighbours or relatives. 

“The informal seed system is highly accessible. An integration of these two systems requires putting in place a support system to coordinate the activities of both sectors. 

“To this end, the formal sector could partner with cassava associations such as Nigerian Cassava Growers Association to distribute high quality seedlings. In addition to the integrated seed system, Nigeria’s cassava farming needs to transition from subsistence to commercial cassava production. 

“This involves the use of sophisticated farming techniques requiring capital intensive equipment purchases. Public-private partnerships can help with financing through investment friendly policies.”