Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA) says cassava has the capacity to generate N10 trillion and save Nigeria over N1.2 trillion from import of derivatives such as ethanol, starch and sweetener.
The President of the association, Mr Segun Adewunmi, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) in Abuja.
He decried that the huge potential in cassava value chain had not been well explored.
He said that in spite of being adjudged the highest producer of cassava in the world, Nigeria was not reaping enough from the commodity.
“If the potential in cassava are harnessed, it can give us more money than oil. It is unfortunate that the derivatives that we can use from cassava are being imported into the country.
“Nigeria uses about 400 million litres of ethanol sold at N400 per litre. That means in a year, we import ethanol worth N160 billion.
“Also, Nigeria uses about 1.7 million metric tonnes of starch and that costs us about 30 billion to N40 billion and
we import everything.
“Equally, if we have been using 20 per cent flour to substitute wheat in our bread, we will be gaining N200 billion from import duty of wheat.
“Furthermore, sweeteners used in soft drinks and beverage companies, as well as other products used by pharmaceutical companies, can be obtained from cassava and these are estimated to be about N350 billion annually.
“Now, we are supposed to have 10 per cent ethanol in our fuel and this will save us N183 billion. So, in all, the import that we can use cassava to get is over N1.2 trillion.
“Apart from that, if five million hectares out of the 84 million hectares are put into industrial cassava production, we will be earning over N10 trillion from cassava derivatives annually.”
According to him, the derivatives have limitless domestic and export market potential, adding that most of the derivatives can be used as raw materials with limitless market potential.
He said that cassava had the potential to transform Nigeria into an industrial hub while triggering the industrial revolution.
While commending the Federal Government for its effort to reposition agriculture as part of the drive to diversify the country’s economy from oil, Adewunmi said more needed to be done to fully tap into the opportunities in cassava production.
He called for enabling the environment to reduce the cost of production as well as the provision of infrastructure to aid farmers and other stakeholders in the value chain.
“Nigeria’s cassava is the most expensive in the world because we are still practising the crude method of farming. I can mention states in this country that do not have one serviceable tractor.
“If the population of a state is two million for instance, and there is no functioning tractor that can be hired, how would there be improved yield.
“In this age are we still going to be using hoes and cutlasses? In other countries, a family can produce food that about 200 people will consume but the farmer in Nigeria cannot even feed himself from what he produces because he does not have the opportunity of producing on a large scale.
“The cassava chips that cost us over 400 dollars to produce in Nigeria has an international market value of 200 dollars. So, as we speak Nigeria is not exporting cassava products, aside from the local food type like garri.
“Even the derivatives that we can use our cassava for is not possible because the cost of production will be too much. So even if we can sell it within, we cannot go outside Nigeria.
“So, while the government may not directly put money into agricultural operations, there is a need for enabling an environment that will allow the farmer to produce cheaply.”
The president further called for the amendment of the Land Use Act to enable farmers to have access to expands of land that would trigger commercial agriculture rather than cultivating on inherited lands that might not meet industrial demand.
“In other countries, the government prepares very good land, demarcates into blocks and allocates or rents to farmers who will then produce under the supervision of experts.
“So, where they should ordinarily get two tonnes, they might get up to seven tonnes and in that case, they will be able to sell at cheaper rates because the cost of production will be reduced.
“I know it is possible to get 40 tonnes from a hectare of cassava but in Nigeria, we are getting miserable eight tonnes.
“One thing I want us to take note of is that plants are fed like animals are fed. If we do that, we will be able to compete favourably with other countries.”
Adewunmi said Nigeria ought to take advantage of the technological advancement in the sector to reap from its numerous potential, adding that much attention should be paid to value addition.