BY STEVE AGBOTA
GROWING and producing cassava for local consumption, processing for industrial use and meeting the standard of exportation is a huge investment that can transform Nigeria’s economy with its potential to earn over N10 trillion annually and turn individuals to millionaires, even multibillionaires from cassava project.
Nigeria is the highest producer of cassava in the world with over 40 million metric tonnes per annum. About 60 per cent of Nigerian farmers are involved in cassava production because it is one of the food security crops.
Cassava roots can grow on any soil in Nigeria and it is virtually grown in the 36 states of the federation. It is very resistant to drought and survives in a variety of soils. But today investors are yet to understand the untapped investment opportunities and farmers hardly see cassava crop as avenue to hit hard currency.
Cassava tubers that may be processed into a variety of products that are gaining huge demand in the export market including chips, flakes popularly known as garri, cubes, peeler, starch for industrial and pharmaceutical use, flour, which can be eaten as elubo lafun or used in the bakery industry, pellets, glues and adhesives, ethanol and glucose syrup, among others.
Besides, the products also have huge demands in Nigeria and other European countries like United Kingdom, Germany and France as well as America and China. It was revealed in 2013 by the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, that China alone requires about 3.2 million tonnes of dry cassava chips, which would earn farmers and processors about $800 million.
Already, Nigeria has released two improved cassava varieties in an effort to maintain its lead as the world’s largest producer of the root crop and improve incomes of farmers.
The varieties were developed through a collaborative effort between the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Nigerian Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike in Abia State. The two varieties were originally recognised as IITA-developed genotypes: IITA-TMS-I982132 and IITA-TMS-I011206. But with the official release, they are now known as Umucass 42 and Umucass 43, respectively. Both varieties performed well in different cassava production regions of Nigeria with high yield, high dry matter and good disease resistance. The roots of these varieties are yellow and contain moderate levels of pro-vitamin A. Part of the efforts on improved cassava varieties was to enable farmers to make millions from cassava production.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the National President of Cassava Growers Association, Pastor Segun Adewunmi, said that from cassava alone, Nigeria could make twice what the country was making at the peak of crude oil production. He pointed out that Nigeria has 84 million hectares of arable land, that if five million of hectares can be developed in five years, it would be enough to provide N10 trillion annually through industrial cassava to Nigeria’s economy.
He added: “From cassava you get ethanol in two grades, including bio-fuel and the food grade. The food grade we are using in this country is worth N3 trillion and we have not even started with the one of bio-fuel and industrial starch.