Value addition is key to cassava revolution in Nigeria
Efforts to add value to crops such as cassava require more attention than ever before to transform Nigeria's agricultural sector, Dr. Peter Hartmann, Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture has said.
Apart from improving farmers' incomes, value addition has the ability to address the increasing level of unemployment in Nigeria, according to Hartmann who was represented by Dr. Gbassey Tarawali, a scientist with IITA, at a stakeholder forum to mark the end of the CFC-funded Cassava Value Chain Project in Nigeria.
Implemented by IITA and its national partners, Hartmann says the establishment of cassava processing centers in Masaka, Lafia and Kuje for the production of gari, fufu, cassava flour and starch is producing positive results by offering new streams of incomes to the benefiting communities.
With an annual production of about 44 million tons of cassava, Nigeria is today the world's leader of cassava, but the country is yet to harness the maximum benefit from cassava due to inadequate processing facilities. This, subjects the crop to seasonal glut.
“This is an area that needs urgent attention,” Hartmann said.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Dr. Abubakar Abdullahi said value addition to cassava would help turn around the fortunes of farmers.
Represented by Mr. Julius Apanisile, the permanent secretary said cassava offered tremendous opportunities that would further broaden the country's economic viability and improve its competitiveness particularly in the non-oil sector.
"Nigeria as the largest world producer of cassava can benefit immensely from this great crop if concerted efforts were made at harnessing its numerous potentials," he said adding, "let me call on all key players in the cassava industry and prospective investors to take a cue from the cassava prototype projects with a view to putting in place standard processing plants to utilize the volume of cassava produced in the country as a source of income."
Nigeria's Project Coordinator, Omololu B. Ope-ewe said that the approach used in the project was to strengthen farmers, processors and marketers through the introduction of appropriate technologies.
"I am glad to inform you that the cassava project was very successful in all project sites namely Kuje (Shabach Food), Mararaba (Joe Beg Farms) and Angwa village in Lafia, Nasarawa State. All the project sites were given various intervention measures including building structures, cassava processing equipment, packaging materials etc. The products from the sites were approved by NAFDAC," she said.
Prof. Lateef Sanni, IITA-CFC Regional Coordinator, called on the beneficiaries to make the most of the processing centers.
He urged policymakers and the private sector to take advantage of the untapped opportunities available in the cassava sector especially processing.