BusinessDay

How Nigeria’s cassava production can become competitive

Despite being the world’s largest cassava producer, Nigeria is among the top global importers of cassava by-products such as starch, flour and animal feeds.

Manufacturers have also continued to import cassava by-products, rather than buy from Nigerian growers owing to the lack of competitiveness of local cassava by-products.

Experts believe the country can change this narrative with the adoption of a new seed system approach that can enable local by-products to compete globally.

Lateef Sanni, a professor, and the project manager of the institute’s BASICS-II project described cassava as the engine of economic growth and stressed that Nigeria must take advantage of the economic potentials of the root crop at a media parley at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) recently.

“Countries like Brazil, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and even Cambodia are reaping “gold” from cassava. These countries do not record less than 30 tons per hectare. However, farmers in Nigeria produce less than 10 tons due to poor performing seeds,” Sanni said.

According to him, “the goal of BASICS-II project is to provide farmers with access to affordable, quality-assured seeds of improved cassava varieties in demand by local food and processor markets through the establishment of a commercially viable seed value chain.”

Read also: Abia farmer loses hectares of cassava farm to fire

“We are doing this using the seed system approach called the BASICS model. We are encouraging farmers to adopt new and improved varieties to improve productivity, raise incomes of cassava growers and seed entrepreneurs, enhance gender equity, and contribute to inclusive agricultural transformation,” he added.

Cassava has major industrial products like industrial starch, ethanol, flour, glucose syrup, sweeteners amongst others. These products are also raw materials to numerous Industries with limitless domestic and export market potentials.

Nigeria imports a great percentage of animal feeds, as many still do not wish to tap into processing cassava for feeds. There is also the absence of awareness from the government.

Goodwin Atser, advocacy, promotions, and outreach lead said that improved seedlings are key to changing the narrative while calling for its adoption on a larger scale to boost cassava productivity, ensure food security, guarantee processors of quality raw materials, and hinder the spread of cassava crop diseases on farms.

Apart from its economic and sustainability elements, Atser said that the BASICS model had a job creation component.

Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, a vegetative seed specialist and the general manager of IITA GoSeed said that the Early Generation Seed Companies were responsible for multiplying the new varieties developed by the breeders in IITA, NRCRI, NextGen Cassava, and other breeding programs.

“At IITA GoSeed, we use new technologies to multiply the improved varieties and make virus–free stems available to the seed producers who will further multiply and sell to farmers. Our Semi Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH) technology has helped us surmount the slow multiplication challenge we used to have in the past.

“Now we are multiplying virus-free cassava planting materials at a much faster rate such that within two years of release, the improved planting materials are commercially available.”

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