Nigeria to tap cassava processing technologies for 2020 vision

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Nigeria says it will harness the opportunities presented by cassava value addition technologies developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and partners to drive the economy and rank among the top 20 economies by the year 2020.

The move is part of that country's strategy to diversify its economy which is currently dominated by the oil sector.

“Cassava is considered because it offers unprecedented opportunities that would further broaden the foundation for economic viability and improved competitiveness particularly in non-oil revenue earnings,” says the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Achike Udenwa at the commissioning of two small and medium scale cassava processing enterprises in Abuja and Nasarawa states on Tuesday.

Both projects are funded by the Common Fund for Commodities and executed by IITA with the Federal Ministry of Commerce as the project coordinating agency and Farm Infrastructure Foundation serving as a technical partner.

Apart from its vast oil reserves, Nigeria tops as the largest producer of cassava in the world but the crop suffers huge postharvest losses occasioned by inadequate processing enterprises.

While commending IITA-CFC, Udenwa says no meaningful development, economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication can be achieved in any country without an efficient and effective industrial processing through value addition to agric commodities.

“Therefore the establishment of these projects will go a long way in providing impetus to numerous cassava processors in the country on 'best practice' and quality assurance. I am convinced that the standard of production and processing in Nigeria would be greatly improved using these facilities,” he adds.

The development of value chain projects seek to shift the country's attention from oil,—a commodity that currently provides more than 90 per cent of the country's revenue—generate employment and create sustainable wealth, says Prof. Lateef Sanni, IITA-CFC Project Coordinator.

Currently supporting small and medium enterprises in the cassava value chain, the $1.6 million project, which covers Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone, is also providing beneficiaries access to new cassava cultivars, product quality improvement and market expansion for sustainable enterprise.

Sanni says cassava can now be processed to several products including flour, starch, fortified cassava gari, fufu and tapioca among others to fight hunger and poverty in Africa.