Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world, with annual production at over 50 million tons. This figure according to stakeholders is very low because currently the country’s production per hectare is still below 10 tons, which is significantly low.
The Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in their new innovation, had developed a technology that is capable of increasing Nigeria’s annual cassava production to 100 million tons.
Director for Development and Delivery of International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Dr Alfred Dixon said because of inadequate technologies to improve cassava production, Nigeria has been unable to tap into the full potential of cassava crop which is estimated at $5 billion annually.
Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) is a program initiated by the African Development Bank (AfDB) as part of its Feed Africa Initiative.
The main objective of the programme is to improve the business of agriculture across Africa by raising agricultural productivity, mitigating risks and promoting diversification and processing in 18 agricultural value chains within eight Priority Intervention Areas (PIA).
According to him “today, that Nigeria’s cassava annual production is above 50 million tons up from 35 million tons in the early 90’s is not by accident. It was as a result of efforts from most of you seated in this room in research and development to all other aspects of the cassava value chain such as processing, mechanization and markets.
“Despite this achievement of having more than 50 million tons annual production, there are still challenges that are still confronting the Cassava crop. Our yield per hectare is still low (less than 10 tons per hectare), we are still battling with the problem of cyclical glut, there are still processing challenges, weeds are still problems in cassava, and several others. Consequently, Nigeria is yet to tap the full potential of cassava crop which is estimated at $5 billion annually”, Dr Dixon said.
He, however, said “the work done by the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project which the cassava Compact of the Technologies for African Agricultural Technologies (TAAT) is promoting can double Nigeria’s annual production of Cassava to 100 million tons if adopted by all cassava farmers in Nigeria.
“The mobile cassava processing truck developed by Cassava Compact of TAAT can help us in addressing part of the problems associated with processing. I believe the solutions are here with us. All that is required is for us to pull together, and the private sector must truly play its role at this time”.
In the same vein, the Vice Chancellor Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Professor Felix Salako said that agriculture could be transformed through investing on cassava production and processing.
He lamented that the major products from cassava which are largely needed in Nigeria were being imported by big companies due to poor local production of the products.
“We can transform our agriculture system to a robust economic base using cassava with steady and unhindered investment for ethanol, starch and high quality cassava industries in our nation.
“Nigeria grows about 54 million metric tons of cassava per year. Cassava is a versatile commodity with numerous uses and by-products. For instance, starch companies have recently established deal to supply cassava starch to Nestle, Cadbury, Unilever, and son on.
“Unfortunately, most of them are only running at around 50 per cent (less than 50,000 tons of starch per annum). The demand for starch is expected to continue to grow at 5 per cent yearly in total demand, this puts total demand for starch at 357,000 by 2020, especially as more companies seek to establish local production lines to service the expanding Nigerian and West African market (sorbitol for toothpaste, sugar-syrups and sweeteners from starch).
“Our net imports for ethanol stands to 300 to 350 million liters per annum. We are unable to produce 30 million liters, creating gap for further national investment instead of imports.
“It is on this note that I seek your cooperation to deliberate on how best to learn from past experiences and use the cassava value chain to unlock further opportunities for millions of farmers and contribute to food security, job creation and incomes, especially for women and young people in Nigeria”, Professor Salako said.