From Cassava To Cool Cash! By Ayo Oyoze Baje

Going by the fascinating facts that Nigeria currently leads the world in cassava production along with its multifarious uses for food, economic and industrial purposes make it compelling enough to become our economic mainstay outside crude oil. It is grown in 26 out of the 36 states as its production has risen from 26 metric tons per annum in 2014 to over 45 mmt as at 2021. In fact, Nigeria is producing a third more than Brazil and almost double the production capacity of Thailand and Indonesia. Nigeria has the potential to generate N188bn from cassava annually when fully harnessed, from the export of its estimated 45 million metric tonnes cassava products every year according to the Minister of Industries, Trade and Investment, Mr Niyi Adebayo.

It therefore, provides the potentials to pull many citizens from the ignoble pit of poverty to the pinnacle of prosperity. But then the right steps have to be taken and those so interested in venturing into it should have adequate knowledge of what it takes to succeed at it.

Interesting stories have been told about Yemisi Iranloye, the Nigerian lady, a graduate of biochemistry  who currently runs a cassava processing outfit that makes N5 billion every year over the  space of the past ten years. That was after relocating from Lagos to a farm in Oyo state. She got attracted to the cassava crop processing during her 10-year stint with Ekha Agro Processing Ltd – an outfit that processes cassava into syrup for glucose.

According to media reports “what initially began as small cassava cultivation with a few farmers blew into a large-scale processing business that has Nigerian breweries and Nestle as clients. Yemisi’s business outfit grows cassava and also buys from smallholder farmers. They produce food-grade starch and high-quality cassava flour”.

 This prompts some questions: What is cassava in the real sense of it? What does it to take to grow it especially in large quantities? What types of soil should be used? What types of stems  that are early-maturing, disease-resistant with bumper harvest? What are the processing and preservation techniques? And of course, what are the best marketing strategies?

To begin with, cassava (Manihot esculenta) is described as “a perennial, woody shrub with an edible root, which grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Cassava originated from tropical America and was first introduced into Africa in the Congo basin by the Portuguese around 1558. Today, Cassava supports the livelihood of over 300 million Africans”.

It is known to tolerate and survive in different types of soil but mostly grown in the tropics. Researches have however shown that it grows best in sandy, loamy soil with organic matter but not so well, especially in water-logged soil. It grows well in soils  that allow for free flow of air and water. Cassava cuttings, with  hybrids such TMS 419 mineral fortified with vitamin A, TMS 30572, 92/0326  are not only disease-resistant but more productive.

In Nigeria, there are about 40 varieties of cassava which have been released by the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) in partnership with other research institutions in Nigeria. Farmers can consult their nearest ADP stations, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, for improved cassava.

As for its different uses from its leaves, a product such as Kisanvu delicacy ( made from crushed leaves, mixed with fried onion and coconut milk or peanut butter) is cherished in Tanzania. The other is called  Kwem in Cameroun. This is made from mashed cassava leaves with peeled cassava tuber. Other products include cassava paste and cassava flour from the tuber. The unfermented flour is used as pastries, couscous, semolina and starch while fermented flour is used for cassava sticks, cassava pasta, and the popular garri, fufu and apu for local consumption.  

For industrial purpose, the cassava starch is used for making paper and textiles. It is processed into High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) to make cakes, bread and biscuits. It is also processed into chips usable for animal feeds. It is processed into ethanol, which is used as bio-fuel when combined with additives. It  is also processed into fructose, used in industry for sweetening fizzy drinks.

Fully aware of these potentials the Chief Obasanjo-led administration came up with the Government Initiative on Cassava, which was launched in 2003. It brought cassava and its potentials to the national limelight. The goal of the Initiative is the promotion of cassava as a viable foreign exchange earner for Nigeria, and also the development of the cassava production system in order to sustain the national demand.

The vision for cassava is that it will spur rural industrial development, helping raise incomes for producers, processors and traders while contributing to the food security status of its producers and consumers, by a shift from cassava as principally a sustenance food to an industrial crop used in the processing of ethanol, starch, pellets, and high quality cassava flour for the export trade.

According to Mr. Ayodele Omowumi David , the Cassava Project and Agro-processing Project (CAMAP) Coordinator, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), “cassava is one of the greatest means to engage youths, solve poverty and ensure food security, as well as the need for mechanisation for production efficiency”.

Nigeria has over 60 major processors that use minimum of 200 tonnes per day. So, each of these factories should employ no fewer than 300 people making it 18,000 workers directly employed.  There is a challenge to be overcome.

He stated that it is difficult for Nigeria to compete in the global cassava market because of the productivity per hectare and the infrastructural facilities to process into finished products that will be exported. For now, the cost of producing cassava is two and a half times higher than the global cost of production, simply because of mechanistion. For instance, Allied Atlantic Distillery Limited (AADL) has not produced to capacity since inception. It is in shortage of cassava roots. If there is increase in production, there will be increase in processing. So, it increases the performance of the existing companies and will help more to come into processing.

In addition, Nigeria is not an active participant in cassava trade in the international markets. This is  because most of her cassava is targeted at the domestic food market. Her production methods are primarily subsistence in nature and therefore unable to support industrial level demands.

Even with these challenges according to David,  if a young graduate is coming into cassava cultivation business with one hectare,  with all inputs adequately used, the maximum is to invest N150,000. And he should expect at least the net profit of N300,000 per hectare. This means he can sell cassava of 450,000 per hectare, which is the minimum.

“It is about 300% gain. We have seen farmers doing and getting the money than this estimate. We have also seen farmers that have tractors from the profit gained from cassava businesses. We are doing a lot for farmers, and we don’t leave them to their fields alone. We also link them to the market and reputable input suppliers and we do technical backstopping, which will give a good result at the end of the day”.

Also, according to  [email protected] a company has developed a standard business plan for cassava processing into various products including garri, flour and starch . The cassava processing business is developed to help entrepreneur raise funds from investors, apply for a bank loan or grant. The business plan would help those so interested to save time, money and energy.

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