Cassava is a crop that has been discovered to have the highest potential for survival. According to a repository by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) , it is easy to grow under various climatic and agronomic conditions and requires very minimal use of chemicals, making it very profitable to produce.
It can be processed into gari (cassava flakes), lafun, fufu, cassava flour for bread, cake and other confectioneries, starch, chips, ethanol, and so on. Processed cassava is used as industrial raw material for the production of adhesives, 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. Pharmaceutical companies and chemical industries also use ethanol from cassava in the production of cosmetics and drugs. The food and beverage industries use cassava products derivatives in the production of jelly caramel and chewing gum. The products are also used in the manufacture of dry cells, textiles and school chalk and so on.
The cassava leaves are now in high demand as fodder for livestock in countries such as USA and South Africa, and can also be cooked and eaten. Gari, which used to be consumed by low-income earners, is now a premium commodity that is exported and in very high demand by Africans living in the Diaspora.
Jerry Uwheraka of Frijay Consult, a leading food export firm in Nigeria, affirms that cassava products such as gari are in very high demand in foreign countries, saying “any product of cassava in dry form is highly demanded in the international market.”
Alero Adegbenro, owner of Blopmed Cassava Products Limited, also said recently, “Demand for Ijebu gari is so high, we can’t meet it. Currently, we cannot even meet up with the local demand, especially for the Ijebu gari as demand virtually outstrips supply for all our cassava products. The reason I have export in view is that it is not good for a business to be static, the operators must keep exploring new markets to ensure that no matter what happens, at any point in time there would always be a market.”
So, Nigeria direly needs to increase production of cassava. But, according to FAO, the average cassava farmer in the country obtains only about 12-15 tons per hectare. Whereas, smaller countries like Thailand are obtaining over 40-50 tons per hectare. But high yield stems used for cultivation of cassava are now available in the country and can be obtained from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan. With this stem, farmers can now get at least 30 tons per hectare.
IITA, in partnership with HarvestPlus, an international agricultural organisation, is also breeding micro-nutrient-rich cassava, that is Vitamin-A rich cassava. Therefore, more of the gari consumed in the country would be processed by cassava processing companies. Cassava can also be inter-cropped with many other crops such as vegetables, plantation, yams, sweet potatoes, melon maize, rice and leguminous crops.
Currently, the Nigerian Cassava Growers Association (NCGA) is ready to help any investor interested in cassava cultivation to access land. “We can help any potential farmer get access to farmland to cultivate cassava in any state in the federation if they come to us,” says Segun Adewunmi, the president of NCGA.
Through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) being driven by Akinwunmi Adesina, the minister of agriculture, a lot of incentives are also being given to encourage cassava producers and processors, especially in the area of funding, access to land and market. The most recent is the announcement of a N10 billion cassava development fund by the minister, which will be used in training master bakers on the use of cassava flour in the confectionery industry and purchase of appropriate equipment.
The Nigerian Agricultural Co-operative and Rural Development Bank (NACRB) and United State Agency for International Development (USAID) have also been giving loan to farmers to improve their efficiency. With the market opportunities being given to cassava flour by supermarkets such as Spar, Nigerian banks which hitherto have been unfriendly to farmers are now more receptive to financing cassava growers and processors. Adewunmi also affirms this, saying, “banks are now the ones coming after us.”
Another lending institutions receptive to supporting investors in cassava is the Nigeria Export Import Bank (NEXIM).
Lots of information are available on the internet on production, access to market and funding. The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) also provides information, mentor ship and consultations. There are also private consultants ready to provide information and guidance. The underlying point is networking. Though farming and agro-processing can be very demanding, investors must also take time out to attend fora that bring together funders, investors, researchers and other stakeholders so as to always have ready access to market information. Joining an association of producers, processors and marketers is also very helpful.
First Published here