Efforts by the Nigerian government to tap the $5billion per annum cassava market demand investments in weed science research, agronomy, and cassava seeds system with a view to raising the productivity frontier of the root crop, says the Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader, Cassava Weed Management Project.
Though the largest producer of cassava in the world with about 53 million tons in 2013, Nigeria is yet to maximize the benefit of cassava exports due low yield of about 14 tons per hectare as opposed to Asian countries where yields are more than 25 tons per hectare and upwards. This yield gap puts Nigerian farmers at a disadvantage position, and they can’t compete in the global cassava market.
“Nigeria’s cassava production accounts for about 20% of the total global output of cassava but less than one percent of export,” Dr Dixon explained in a keynote at the 2016 National Cassava Summit with the theme: “Towards a U.S.$5 billion Per Annum Cassava Industry in the Next Five Years” in Abuja on 8 September.
Dr Dixon who commonly referred to as ‘Dr Cassava’ urged the government and development partners to address the yield gap question in order to move the cassava sector forward.
He described cassava as a poverty fighter, and as “Africa’s best kept secret” that if fully harnessed could change the fortunes of farmers and contribute significantly towards the transformation of African economies.
According to him, cassava is an appropriate commodity to feature in Nigeria’s economic development and confront the problems of a rapidly growing population and rising urbanization that is demanding more food, feed for livestock and raw materials for industries.
Besides the constraints of weed control, agronomy, and a lack of improved cassava seeds, Dr Dixon also brought to the front burner the low use of mechanization, limited access to finance and markets, poor transportation, and limited use of fertilizers and other inputs as bottlenecks that have limited the potential of cassava in Nigeria.
On the way forward, the keynote speaker reiterated the need for the government to develop a market oriented strategy for the root crop and to create incentives and efficient input delivery systems.
He underscored the need to involve youth in cassava production, and more importantly, to sustain the local content policy of 10 percent inclusion of cassava in wheat flour for baking of bread.
While re-emphasizing the need to fund research and development, Dr Dixon called for the building of strong farmer groups and linkages while at the same time providing the necessary linkages.
Dr Peter Kulakow, IITA Cassava Breeder, who represented the Director General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga reiterated the commitment of IITA to support Nigeria towards agricultural transformation.
Dr Sanginga urged the country to take advantage of cassava and create wealth and jobs for the young population.
According to the IITA boss, “Value addition from cassava can generate jobs and income for youth, women, and investors in cassava from farmers and all stakeholders. Youth in Agribusiness in particular will provide the new business innovators to both drive down youth unemployment and fill agriculture with a new generation of vitality and expertise.”
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, acknowledge that the cassava industry’s potential had been hampered by the same factors that have hindered the development of other agricultural sub-sectors. These factors include the relatively low yields and high production costs, weak value chain coordination, poor infrastructure and poor access to finance.
In spite of the challenges, the Minister noted that the journey of a $5 billion begins with a single step, and that the government was ready to take that step together with partners. “Our Ministry is here to listen and learn of innovative ways in which we can collaborate to address the challenges ahead,” he said.
The National Cassava Summit was organized by the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND). Partners for the summit included: Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology, Federal Institute for Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), United States Agency for International Development’s Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites (MARKETS) II project.
Others are International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Department for International Development (DFID) Market Development (MADE) program and Cassava Adding Value in Africa (CAVA) II, Harvest Plus, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), Nigeria Cassava Processors and Marketers Association (NCAPMA) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).