Uche Usim, Abuja
Efforts to boost cassava production for local consumption and export crystallized on Thursday as the Central Bank of Nigeria, state governors and Nigeria Cassava Growers Association and large-scale Cassava Processors signed a Memorandum of Understanding to achieve that target.
Speaking at the meeting, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele said event was aimed at resuscitating the cassava value chain in Nigeria, as the staple is currently the fourth most important food crop in the world, after maize, wheat and rice and is grown on over 24 million hectares in 105 countries in the world with Nigeria as the leading producer.
According to him, Nigeria produced about 53 million metric tons of cassava in 2018 but with a very low average yield of about 7.7 MT per hectare as compared to 23.4 MT and 22.2 MT per ha in Indonesia and Thailand respectively.
The CBN Governor explained that aside foreign exchange conservation, increasing cassava production remains a necessity as starch, glucose, sorbitol and other products currently being imported offers no future for the nation in the long-term, in view of the fact that Nigeria imports cassava derivatives valued at over $600m annually.
Emefiele revealed that high potential demand exists in cassava value chain and listed them as cassava flour for making bread, biscuits and snacks.
He said the demand was above 500,000t annually while supply is below 15,000t.
“Demand for cassava starch is above 300,000t annually while supply is below 10,000t; demand for cassava-based constituents in sugar syrup is above 350,000t annually while supply is almost nonexistent; potential demand for ethanol in Nigeria as a fuel for cooking, to power vehicles (E10), and other industrial uses exceeds 1 billion litres, while production is nearly zero.
“It was on this premise that we included cassava in the FX exclusion list to salvage the industry, encourage farmers to go back to their farms to boost job creation and increase output and improve the capacity utilization of our processing companies.
“Although huge investments were made into the industry during the cassava bread initiative, the industry continues to suffer as a result of low yield varieties, poor farm practices, lack of good quality farm inputs, non-utilization of available cultivable lands, manual system of production, inadequate funding for smallholder out grower schemes and low processing capacity. To ameliorate these challenges, and in line with CBN’s developmental initiatives, the Bank is intervening in the sector through a complete value chain approach.
“This will involve support to the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association at the production level under the ‘Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (’ABP) and support to Large Scale Cassava Processors under the CACS and DCRR programs.
“Statistics however, show that out of the 53 million MT of cassava produced in Nigeria annually; more than 90% is processed into food for human consumption whereas a significant industrial demand exists for the output of processed cassava, primarily as a substitute for imported raw materials and semi-finished products,” he said.
Emefiele added that the apex bank was particularly interested in the cassava value chain because it was in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic diversification programme for Nigeria.
“The nation is blessed with several varieties of cassava that can be explored to optimum potential. However, there is a need to adopt improved varieties and practices that would guarantee better yield, better processing efficiency, increased profit and improved standard of living for our farmers. In achieving this goal, we are holding consultations with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike.
“In line with the agenda of President Mohammadu Buhari of ensuring agricultural growth, the CBN is taking bolder steps in collaborating with the private sector, state governments in Nigeria’s cassava producing areas and other stakeholders to join hands towards resuscitating Nigeria’s cassava sector. This follows our game changing intervention in the rice value chain in Kebbi and other rice-producing States across the country that increased local rice production from 2.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017 as well as cotton intervention with the flag-off of input distribution to 150,000 cotton farmers, cultivating 150,000 hectares in 23 States of the Federation.
“Currently the cotton planted by these farmers has begun fruiting and will soon be ready for harvest and off-take from December 2019,” he said.