Maximizing the Benefits of Cassava for Economic Growth
Trade and Investment Minister Niyi Adebayo recently drew attention to Nigeria’s failure to capitalize on its prowess in cassava production, thus missing out on the international market. Its lament that the country’s position as the world’s largest producer with 45 million metric tonnes of cassava worth $ 18 billion per year has not brought a tangible boon to the country in terms of export earnings. is a self-blame. It is his responsibility and that of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) and state governors to implement policies aimed at transforming this natural advantage into substantial economic benefits for the country and its people.
In many ways, the cassava debacle reflects the entrenched incompetence of successive Nigerian national and subnational governments; how they failed to turn natural wealth into wealth, overcome poverty and boost development. As Adebayo said when he hosted the organizing committee of PAC Africa Expo and Conference in Abuja, the country “is not an active player in the cassava trade on the international market”. It’s doubly sad. An economy suffering from shrinking incomes and a weak export base should be wiser.
Consider this: Of the total of 298.8 MMT of cassava estimated by IMARC, a research company, to have been produced globally (in 103 countries) in 2020, Nigeria accounted for 21%. It is followed by Thailand by a wide gap, Indonesia, Brazil, Angola, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But Thailand tops the list of top exporting countries, followed by Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Paraguay and Brazil in 2019. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says production Nigeria is a third more than that of Brazil and double that of Thailand and Indonesia.
Ironically also, cassava, a drought tolerant crop, is grown in all parts of Nigeria, although the main producing states are Benue, Kogi, Cross River, Ondo, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Rivers. Like the 44 types of minerals identified to be distributed across 36 states and palm products, Nigerian states have failed to design policies to exploit this resource. Cassava is both a staple crop and a cash crop. It is the largest source of dietary carbohydrates in the tropics, with 800 million people worldwide depending on it for their daily bread. Nigeria’s production in 2018 is estimated to be closer to 59.5 MMT. Of this total, about 84 percent is consumed for food and only 16 percent is available for added value.
It is a huge waste. Although it provides carbohydrates to Nigerians, by its perennial nature, it can survive on poor soils and low rainfall, and its year-round cultivation supports labor activities and sustains the subsistence diet of millions of people. rural poor. But its full economic potential remains untapped locally. Other derivatives include various alcoholic beverages, various culinary dishes and animal feed.
As a biofuel, its transformation into ethanol has grown in importance over the past decade as the world seeks greener alternatives to fossil fuels. It is used in the production of drugs, cosmetics, lacquers, varnishes and plasticizers. Although it is 94% derived from corn starch in the United States, ethanol is increasingly extracted from cassava and mixed with gasoline to fuel vehicles; some vehicles now run on 100 percent ethanol; Brazilian law makes it mandatory to mix ethanol and gasoline. According to Global Trade, an American journal, ethanol exports increased 79.8% between 2014 and 2018, reaching $ 8.7 billion in 2018.
State governors should emerge from their lethargy and transform their estates into autonomous and self-sufficient economic units to promote productive activities and exports, create jobs, increase incomes and end the current dependence on federal allocations. . There should be effective policies to promote a robust cassava processing industry in order to derive maximum benefit from the cultivation. It should start with improving the quality and yields of crops. PwC, a global consultancy firm, says that from cassava, Nigeria has the potential to generate revenues of $ 427 million from domestic added value, $ 2.98 billion in exports and “unlock around $ 16 million. of dollars (6.56 billion naira) in taxes “. Sources of silver include ethanol, cassava constituents in sugar syrup, high quality flour, garri, adhesives such as cassava starch, caustic soda, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid and sodium silicate. Local demand for ethanol for industry is estimated at 400 million liters; the demand for cassava starch is 300,000 liters while the domestic supply is less than 10,000 liters.
To meet the estimated domestic demand of 28.3 million tonnes of fresh cassava roots planted on 1.2 million hectares of land, various governments should promote policies aimed at improving agricultural techniques, as most of the production is still carried out by subsistence farmers using raw tools. This will reverse the low yields and postharvest losses. This requires providing storage facilities and improving logistics throughout the value chain and creating an enabling operating environment to diversify the value chain from its overwhelming traditional foods to include processing. industrial.
To this end, states and local governments must radically improve extension services to farmers, promote start-ups and SMEs, mobilize low-interest credit for producers and processors, and increase funding for agriculture. research and development. Transport, ports and rural infrastructure should be overhauled and the ease of doing business improved to facilitate transport and exports. The Anchor Borrower Program which provided credit for rice cultivation should be extended to cassava cultivation.
Nigerian governments should get serious. While countries dependent on primary resources will remain at the bottom of the development ladder eternally, it is these countries that manufacture products more efficiently and cheaply, add value to commodities – and are linked to the international market that provide the best human and physical resources. development indices. Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have separately defined and implemented policies aimed at attracting targeted cassava investments to the export market. Although it only accounts for 10.7 percent of total world production, thanks to sound policies, Thailand accounts for almost 60 percent of world exports.
To create millions of jobs, promote industrialization and exports and diversify export earnings, different governments should mobilize all stakeholders to attract investment in cassava cultivation and processing in order to maximize this gift of nature and reduce poverty.
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