As the world’s largest producer of cassava, Nigeria is making use of this advantage to diversify and boost its economy by making cassava production a sustainable economic edge over its contemporaries.
But some experts have expressed fear on how far this initiative can go.
Cassava is a constant woody shrub with an edible root which grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the country. It has the ability to grow on marginal lands where cereals and other crops do not grow well. It is drought resistant.
As a global player, Nigeria is set to take advantage of its potentials.
Oluwole Aina, of the National Root Crops Research Institute said, “Because of our domestic demands, Nigeria has a huge comparative advantage for cassava cultivation than any other crop and the presence of a huge domestic market for cassava is one of the greatest strength that this country has. The land is suitable, even on marginal soil, cassava thrives and can grow in every state within Nigeria”.
Cassava has been noted as the crop in the agricultural sector that can re-launch Nigeria into the league of economically viable nations through agriculture roots.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has left no one in doubt that the initiative is not a mere dream.
“Government has no business in business but government has business in creating platforms whereby business can thrive. One of the greatest tools you can use to create jobs is agriculture”.
But Nigeria is yet to maximize its prominent position in cassava growing neither is the country able to make much impact on the global cassava market. Government is however raising hopes through its initiatives aimed at improving cassava production and developing new ways to use the crop as part of its strategy to diversify its economy away from oil.
“The average ridge output in cassava field is about 14 metric tonnes per hectares and in well managed farms through the introduction of improved varieties of cassava stem, output could be as high as 60 metric tonnes per hectare”.
But some Nigerians are not convinced, they query government sincerity in achieving the cassava policy, pointing to the policy of palm oil which Malaysia borrowed and used to displace Nigeria as a global player.
Dahiru Ado, Chairman, Presidential Committee on Trade Malpractice said, “Well before the British colonized us, we were growing palm oil certainly but the huge volume came about with the huge demands by the British industries and Nigeria found itself in that position of being one of the top producers of palm oil in the world. Malaysia with a similar climate to ours came and got the technology, got the seedlings and got interested in producing palm oil and shamefully today we have to import palm oil from Malaysia”.
Presently cassava is primarily produced for food, especially in form of garri, lafun, fufu and abacha with little or no use in the agriculture business. But the crop can be processed into several secondary products of industrial market value. These products include chips, peanuts, flour, alcohol and starch.
Embracing the need for Nigeria to utilize its potential, experts hold the view that faithful implementation of the policy can propel Nigeria to achieve industrial breakthrough.
Honourable Orker Jev of the Nigerian House of Representatives said, “The problem will start when we are not producing enough to feed their industries, then they will begin to look for ways and means of trying to produce their own. So the best to avoid having China as a rival is to continue to produce enough than China or any other country that needs cassava will continue to buy from us”
Dahiru Ado said, “But there are so many other countries that have a lot of arable land that is utilized and once of course they come to terms with the culture of growing cassava just as we have, they will also grow it”.
Steve Nwachukwu, National Root Crops Research Institute said “The market is very challenging, the market is competitive, so any country in the world can develop what they have, but as we are now as Nigeria we have a comparative advantage ahead of any other country in the world”.
China’s demand for cassava is expected to exceed 12 million tonnes by 2015 due to their large ethanol production. Experts express fear that Nigeria should wake up to reality of possible competition from other players.
The consensus amongst experts is that the country should develop the domestic market, diversify the use of cassava in industries, curtail the threat of virus and entrench national policies that will leverage cassava development in the country.
27th February 2015