Nigeria grows about 54 million metric tonnes of cassava per year. Cassava is a versatile commodity with numerous uses and by-products. It is an important staple in the tropics and is grown in increasing amounts per capita. Cassava is still a “food crop” – more than 90% consumed as traditional foods. Though traditionally processed for food, it has been increasingly used throughout the world in textile, food, pharmaceutical and biochemical industries.
It is the “second choice” for many industrial end users as processed – as processed cassava products face competition from wheat flour, corn starch, and ethanol from sugar from other countries. With the increasing investments in starch and ethanol production in Nigeria, there is a need for increased cultivation of cassava not only by smallholder farmers but by commercial farmers.
Cassava starch is an important industrial raw material for food, pharmaceutical, textile and chemical industries in Nigeria and it is produced from corn, sweet potato and cassava. Globally, corn accounts for about 65 per cent of the bulk of starch produced while cassava accounts for about 12 per cent.
Starch companies have long established deal to supply cassava starch to Nestle, Cadbury, Unilever, and so on. Unfortunately, most of them are only running at around 60 per cent capacities (less than 50,000 tonnes of starch per annum). The demand for starch is expected to continue to grow at five per cent yearly in total demand, and this puts total demand for starch at 357,000 metric tonnes by 2020, especially as more companies seek to establish local production lines to service the expanding Nigerian and West African markets (sorbitol for toothpaste, sugar-syrups and sweeteners from starch). Our net imports for ethanol stands at 300 to 350 million litres per annum. AADL produces only 9 million litres.
Growth forecast from recently concluded Cassava: Adding for Africa (C:AVA 2) Project showed a sharp rise in the demand of cassava roots for the two industrial products in the next five to 10 years.
This, however, is the overall demand for industrial starch within Nigeria, which has far outpaced demand for Nigerian cassava starch (or the ability of Nigerian companies to produce competitively priced starch).
The primary reason cited remains the high price of Nigerian fresh cassava root (FCR), combined with inefficient processors, reducing processor ability to secure FCR to run at installed capacity of their processing facilities. Although, demand for industrial starch is rapidly increasing, Nigeria’s ability to meet that demand is not certain in the nearest future.
Most industrial players rated TME 419 and TMS 30572 as the best with highest starch contents. Today’s demand by industries was over two decades of research and development by IITA, NRCRI, RTEP, and other players. Strategies to replace existing low yield and disease-infested cassava varieties in Nigeria must be pursued by relevant government and private sectors.
Nigeria is blessed with billions of naira worth of investment for ethanol and cassava starch industries. Some of those companies are Allied Atlantic Distilleries Limited, Igbesa, Ogun and Unicane, Lokoja, Kogi State (Ethanol); (Nigeria Starch Mill, Ihiala, Anambra State; Matna Starch, Ogbese road, Akure, Ondo State; Psaltry International Limited, Ado Awaye, Oyo State; Niji Farms, Ilero, Oyo State; Greentech Starch, Agbara, Ogun State; Tempo Starch, Adigbe, Abeokuta, Ogun State and Harvest Feed Agro Processing Limited, Ajura, Ogun State (Starch Mills).
Development partners should encourage Nigerians to gain from their investments by supporting the use of stem multiplication techniques like semi-auto hydroponic system to produce new and pure stems for wider distribution to farmers. This action will spur millions of farmers to gain from the Economic Growth Recovery of the Federal Government of Nigeria and obtain more loans from the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS); the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk-sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).
For the attainment of positive economic growth recovery that will create more incomes to all actors within the value chain nodes, generate true employment and sustainable livelihood, cassava is second to none; hence, the need for another Presidential Cassava Initiative to be anchored by competent professionals in the country.
We need the political will to thrust forward, especially in land access, clearing, pure stem distribution and pragmatic incentives for investors. Leadership, professionalism and fairness are required to gain from the starch growth in West Africa.
Prof. Sanni is the President, International Society for Tropical Root Crops and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria.