Despite being the world’s largest producer of cassava, with production of more than 53 million tonnes annually, Nigeria has not maximised its benefits apart from its principal use for local consumption, especially in the making of staples like akpu and garri. Derivatives that can be gotten from cassava are numerous.
They include animal feeds, high quality flour, chips, bread, biscuit, and snacks, among others. Cassava is also used as glue for plywood, for food and beverages, textile, pharmaceuticals and glucose.
Demands that exist in the nation’s cassava value chain, include High-Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) for the making of bread, biscuits and snacks put at above 500,000 tonnes ,annually, while supply is below 15,000 tonnes.
Likewise, demand for cassava starch is above 300,000 tonnes annually, while supply is below 10,000 tonnes. Statistics also show that demand for cassava-based constituents in sugar syrup in the country is above 350,000 tonnes annually, while supply is almost zero.
What is more, potential demand for ethanol in the country as a fuel for cooking, to power vehicles, and other industrial uses exceeds one billion litres, while production is nearly zero.
Apart from these deficits in the cassava value chain, we received with concern the recent revelation by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele that the country imports cassava derivatives worth about 600 million dollars annually.
This is alarming and must not be allowed to continue in the interest of the nation’s economy. It is in the move towards checking this loss of foreign exchange and the need to create jobs for more Nigerians that we welcome the recent CBN ‘s Memorandum of Understanding signed with the crop’s stakeholders like the Nigeria Cassava Growers’ Association and Large Scale Cassava Processors to reverse the trend.
Emefiele stated at the signing ceremony in Abuja recently that there was the need to adopt improved varieties and practices that would guarantee better yield, better processing efficiency, increased profit and improved standard of living for the farmers.
Towards achieving this goal, he said CBN was holding consultations with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan and the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike.
He added that CBN was taking bolder steps in collaborating with the private sector, state governments in Nigeria’s cassava producing areas and other stakeholders towards resuscitating the cassava sector. We wish to laud the apex bank for another bold step aimed at strengthening the agricultural sector for which cassava production is a key component.
There is no doubt that CBN’s intervention in rice production has impacted positively on rice and other crops production in the country. The recent apex bank’s initiative, which is hoped will create more than two million jobs in the crop’s value chain is another initiative that should be given the required support from the various stakeholders to succeed.
The success of the progamme will no doubt impact positively in addressing food insecurity facing some parts of the country, and most importantly go a long way in lifting the nation out of poverty through enhanced incomes for farmers.
Through the cassava initiative and similar others in the real sector, we hope that the nation will regain itself from unenviable tag as the poverty capital of the world.